Food-predicting stimuli differentially influence eye movements and goal-directed behavior in normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals
Balsters, Joshua H.
Hare, Todd A.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Obese individuals have been shown to exhibit abnormal sensitivity to rewards and reward-predicting cues as for example food-associated cues frequently used in advertisements. It has also been shown that food-associated cues can increase goal-directed behavior but it is currently unknown, whether this effect differs between normal-weight, overweight, and obese individuals. Here, we investigate this question by using a Pavlovian-to-instrumental transfer (PIT) task in normal-weight (N = 20), overweight (N = 17), and obese (N = 17) individuals. Furthermore, we applied eye tracking during Pavlovian conditioning to measure the participants’ conditioned response as a proxy of the incentive salience of the predicted reward. Our results show that the goal-directed behavior of overweight individuals was more strongly influenced by food-predicting cues (i.e., stronger PIT effect) than that of normal-weight and obese individuals (p < 0.001). The weight groups were matched for age, gender, education, and parental education. Eye movements during Pavlovian conditioning also differed between weight categories (p < 0.05) and were used to categorize individuals based on their fixation style into “high eye index” versus “low eye index” as well. Our main finding was that the fixation style exhibited a complex interaction with the weight category. Furthermore, we found that normal-weight individuals of the group “high eye index” had higher body mass index within the healthy range than individuals of the group “low eye index” (p < 0.001), but this relationship was not found within in the overweight or obese groups (p > 0.646). Our findings are largely consistent with the incentive sensitization theory predicting that overweight individuals are more susceptible to food-related cues than normal-weight controls. However, this hypersensitivity might be reduced in obese individuals, possibly due to habitual/compulsive overeating or differences in reward valuation Show more
Journal / seriesFrontiers in Psychiatry
PublisherFrontiers Research Foundation
SubjectPavlovian-to-instrumental transfer; cue-controlled behavior; incentive salience; conditioned response; eye movements; obesity
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