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Volitional regulation of brain responses to food stimuli in overweight and obese subjects: a real-time fMRI feedback study

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Scheffler,  K
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department High-Field Magnetic Resonance, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Spetter, M., Malekshahi, R., Birbaumer, N., Lührs, M., van der Veer, A., Scheffler, K., et al. (2017). Volitional regulation of brain responses to food stimuli in overweight and obese subjects: a real-time fMRI feedback study. Appetite, 112, 188-195. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.01.032.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-C30F-4
Abstract
Obese subjects who achieve weight loss show increased functional connectivity between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), key areas of executive control and reward processing. We investigated the potential of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) neurofeedback training to achieve healthier food choices by enhancing self-control of the interplay between these brain areas. We trained eight male individuals with overweight or obesity (age: 31.8 ± 4.4 years, BMI: 29.4 ± 1.4 kg/m2) to up-regulate functional connectivity between the dlPFC and the vmPFC by means of a four-day rt-fMRI neurofeedback protocol including, on each day, three training runs comprised of six up-regulation and six passive viewing trials. During the up-regulation runs of the four training days, participants successfully learned to increase functional connectivity between dlPFC and vmPFC. In addition, a trend towards less high-calorie food choices emerged from before to after training, which however was associated with a trend towards increased covertly assessed snack intake. Findings of this proof-of-concept study indicate that overweight and obese participants can increase functional connectivity between brain areas that orchestrate the top-down control of appetite for high-calorie foods. Neurofeedback training might therefore be a useful tool in achieving and maintaining weight loss.