Chronic stress exposure may affect the brain's response to high calorie food cues and predispose to obesogenic eating habits

Matthew S. Tryon, Cameron S Carter, Rashel DeCant, Kevin D. Laugero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Exaggerated reactivity to food cues involving calorically-dense foods may significantly contribute to food consumption beyond caloric need. Chronic stress, which can induce palatable "comfort" food consumption, may trigger or reinforce neural pathways leading to stronger reactions to highly rewarding foods. We implemented functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess whether chronic stress influences activation in reward, motivation and executive brain regions in response to pictures of high calorie and low calorie foods in thirty women. On separate lab visits, we also assessed food intake from a snack food buffet and circulating cortisol. In women reporting higher chronic stress (HCS), pictures of high calorie foods elicited exaggerated activity in regions of the brain involving reward, motivation, and habitual decision-making. In response to pictures of high calorie food, higher chronic stress was also associated with significant deactivation in frontal regions (BA10; BA46) linked to strategic planning and emotional control. In functional connectivity analysis, HCS strengthened connectivity between amygdala and the putamen, while LCS enhanced connectivity between amygdala and the anterior cingulate and anterior prefrontal cortex (BA10). A hypocortisolemic signature and more consumption of high calorie foods from the snack buffet were observed in the HCS group. These results suggest that persistent stress exposure may alter the brain's response to food in ways that predispose individuals to poor eating habits which, if sustained, may increase risk for obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-242
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Volume120
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 15 2013

Fingerprint

Feeding Behavior
Cues
Food
Brain
Snacks
Amygdala
Reward
Motivation
Habit
Neural Pathways
Putamen
Gyrus Cinguli
Prefrontal Cortex
Hydrocortisone
Decision Making
Obesity
Eating
Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Keywords

  • Executive control
  • Food
  • Habits
  • Neuroimaging
  • Reward
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy

Cite this

Chronic stress exposure may affect the brain's response to high calorie food cues and predispose to obesogenic eating habits. / Tryon, Matthew S.; Carter, Cameron S; DeCant, Rashel; Laugero, Kevin D.

In: Physiology and Behavior, Vol. 120, 15.08.2013, p. 233-242.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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