Neural mechanisms associated with food motivation in obese and healthy weight adults

Laura E. Martin, Laura M. Holsen, Rebecca J. Chambers, Amanda S. Bruce, William M. Brooks, Jennifer R. Zarcone, Merlin G. Butler, Cary R. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

224 Scopus citations


One out of three adults in the United States is clinically obese. Excess food intake is associated with food motivation, which has been found to be higher in obese compared to healthy weight (HW) individuals. Little is known, however, regarding the neural mechanisms associated with food motivation in obese compared to HW adults. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine changes in the hemodynamic response in obese and HW adults while they viewed food and nonfood images in premeal and postmeal states. During the premeal condition, obese participants showed increased activation, compared to HW participants, in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). Moreover, in the obese group, self-report measures of disinhibition were negatively correlated with premeal ACC activations and self-report measures of hunger were positively correlated with premeal MPFC activations. During the postmeal condition, obese participants also showed greater activation than HW participants in the MPFC. These results indicate that brain function associated with food motivation differs in obese and HW adults and may have implications for understanding brain mechanisms contributing to overeating and obesity, and variability in response to diet interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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