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Neural Signaling of Food Healthiness Associated with Emotion Processing


Herwig, Uwe; Dhum, Matthias; Hittmeyer, Anna; Opialla, Sarah; Scherpiet, Sigrid; Keller, Carmen; Brühl, Annette B; Siegrist, Michael (2016). Neural Signaling of Food Healthiness Associated with Emotion Processing. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 8:16.

Abstract

The ability to differentiate healthy from unhealthy foods is important in order to promote good health. Food, however, may have an emotional connotation, which could be inversely related to healthiness. The neurobiological background of differentiating healthy and unhealthy food and its relations to emotion processing are not yet well understood. We addressed the neural activations, particularly considering the single subject level, when one evaluates a food item to be of a higher, compared to a lower grade of healthiness with a particular view on emotion processing brain regions. Thirty-seven healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while evaluating the healthiness of food presented as photographs with a subsequent rating on a visual analog scale. We compared individual evaluations of high and low healthiness of food items and also considered gender differences. We found increased activation when food was evaluated to be healthy in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and precuneus in whole brain analyses. In ROI analyses, perceived and rated higher healthiness was associated with lower amygdala activity and higher ventral striatal and orbitofrontal cortex activity. Females exerted a higher activation in midbrain areas when rating food items as being healthy. Our results underline the close relationship between food and emotion processing, which makes sense considering evolutionary aspects. Actively evaluating and deciding whether food is healthy is accompanied by neural signaling associated with reward and self-relevance, which could promote salutary nutrition behavior. The involved brain regions may be amenable to mechanisms of emotion regulation in the context of psychotherapeutic regulation of food intake.

Abstract

The ability to differentiate healthy from unhealthy foods is important in order to promote good health. Food, however, may have an emotional connotation, which could be inversely related to healthiness. The neurobiological background of differentiating healthy and unhealthy food and its relations to emotion processing are not yet well understood. We addressed the neural activations, particularly considering the single subject level, when one evaluates a food item to be of a higher, compared to a lower grade of healthiness with a particular view on emotion processing brain regions. Thirty-seven healthy subjects underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while evaluating the healthiness of food presented as photographs with a subsequent rating on a visual analog scale. We compared individual evaluations of high and low healthiness of food items and also considered gender differences. We found increased activation when food was evaluated to be healthy in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and precuneus in whole brain analyses. In ROI analyses, perceived and rated higher healthiness was associated with lower amygdala activity and higher ventral striatal and orbitofrontal cortex activity. Females exerted a higher activation in midbrain areas when rating food items as being healthy. Our results underline the close relationship between food and emotion processing, which makes sense considering evolutionary aspects. Actively evaluating and deciding whether food is healthy is accompanied by neural signaling associated with reward and self-relevance, which could promote salutary nutrition behavior. The involved brain regions may be amenable to mechanisms of emotion regulation in the context of psychotherapeutic regulation of food intake.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:10 February 2016
Deposited On:22 Mar 2019 12:02
Last Modified:23 Mar 2019 08:31
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1663-4365
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2016.00016
PubMed ID:26903859

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