Description: The precise role of the mesocorticolimbic system in neural processing of food stimuli remains unclear. Crucially, high-caloric palatable foods have a double-sided nature; they are often craved but also associated with being unhealthy. Therefore, neural responses to individually tailored palatable and unpalatable high caloric food stimuli were measured, while female overweight participants’ (n = 23) attentional focus was manipulated to be either hedonic or neutral. Interestingly, the mesocorticolimbic system did not respond significantly differently to palatable than to unpalatable food stimuli. Instead, independent of food palatability, several regions in the mesocorticolimbic system responded more strongly when attentional focus was hedonic than when neutral. Multivariate analyses showed that food palatability could be specifically decoded when participants’ attentional focus was hedonic. Our findings show that activity in the mesocorticolimbic system is not proportionate to the palatability of foods, and underline the importance of considering attentional focus when measuring food-related neural responses.
Related article: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.104609
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