Altered dynamics between neural systems sub-serving decisions for unhealthy food

Qinghua HE, Lin XIAO, Gui XUE, Wai Ho Savio WONG, Susan L. AMES, Bin XIE, Antoine BECHARA

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Using BOLD functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques, we examined the relationships between activities in the neural systems elicited by the decision stage of the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), and food choices of either vegetables or snacks high in fat and sugar. Twenty-three healthy normal weight adolescents and young adults, ranging in age from 14 to 21, were studied. Neural systems implicated in decision-making and inhibitory control were engaged by having participants perform the IGT during fMRI scanning. The Youth/Adolescent Questionnaire, a food frequency questionnaire, was used to obtain daily food choices. Higher consumption of vegetables correlated with higher activity in prefrontal cortical regions, namely the left superior frontal gyrus (SFG), and lower activity in sub-cortical regions, namely the right insular cortex. In contrast, higher consumption of fatty and sugary snacks correlated with lower activity in the prefrontal regions, combined with higher activity in the sub-cortical, insular cortex. These results provide preliminary support for our hypotheses that unhealthy food choices in real life are reflected by neuronal changes in key neural systems involved in habits, decision-making and self-control processes. These findings have implications for the creation of decision-making based intervention strategies that promote healthier eating. Copyright © 2014 He, Xiao, Xue, Wong, Ames, Xie and Bechara.
Original languageEnglish
Article number350
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


He, Q., Xian, L., Xue, G., Wong, S., Ames, S. L., Xie, B., et al. (2014). Altered dynamics between neural systems sub-serving decisions for unhealthy food. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, Article 350.


  • Iowa gambling task (IGT)
  • Food choice
  • Self-control
  • Eating
  • Insula


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