Ventral frontal satiation-mediated responses to food aromas in obese and normal-weight women

William J.A. Eiler, Mario Dzemidzic, K. Rose Case, Cheryl L.H. Armstrong, Richard D. Mattes, Melissa A. Cyders, Robert V. Considine, David A. Kareken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


Background: Sensory properties of foods promote and guide consumption in hunger states, whereas satiation should dampen the sensory activation of ingestive behaviors. Such activation may be disordered in obese individuals. Objective: Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we studied regional brain responses to food odor stimulation in the sated state in obese and normal-weight individuals targeting ventral frontal regions known to be involved in coding for stimulus reward value. Design: Forty-eight women (25 normal weight; 23 obese) participated in a 2-day (fed compared with fasting) fMRI study while smelling odors of 2 foods and an inedible, nonfood object. Analyses were conducted to permit an examination of both general and sensory- specific satiation (satiation effects specific to a given food). Results: Normal-weight subjects showed significant blood oxygen level-dependent responses in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) to food aromas compared with responses induced by the odor of an inedible object. Normal-weight subjects also showed general (but not sensory-specific) satiation effects in both the vmPFC and orbitofrontal cortex. Obese subjects showed no differential response to the aromas of food and the inedible object when fasting. Within- and between-group differences in satiation were driven largely by changes in the response to the odor of the inedible stimulus. Responses to food aromas in the obese correlated with trait negative urgency, the tendency toward negative affect-provoked impulsivity. Conclusions: Ventral frontal signaling of reward value may be disordered in obesity, with negative urgency heightening responses to food aromas. The observed nature of responses to food and nonfood stimuli suggests that future research should independently quantify each to fully understand brain reward signaling in obesity. This trial was registered at as NCT02041039.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1318
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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