Obesity is a major public health concern that is associated with disruption in food reward-related brain function. This study examined if negative affect and stressful events enhance the relation between the food reward-related neural response and future weight gain. Initially healthy weight adolescents (N = 135) completed fMRI paradigms in which they tasted milkshakes and viewed palatable food images, and reported on negative affect and stressful events at baseline; BMI was measured annually over 3-year follow-up. Whole-brain analyses revealed that among participants with higher negative affect, weight gain over 3-year follow-up was predicted by elevated response to appetitive versus unappetitive food images in the left hippocampus, and elevated response in the vermis and the bilateral precuneus to tastes of milkshake versus tasteless solution. Among participants who experienced more stressful events, elevated right middle occipital gyrus response to milkshakes predicted future weight gain. Profiling analyses suggested that participants with higher negative affect or more stressful events who later gained weight reported engaging in more restrained eating and eating disorder-related behaviors. Results suggest that negative affect or stressful events may amplify the relation of neural response to food and the risk for future weight gain.
Yang, X., Casement, M., Yokum, S., & Stice, E. (2019). Negative affect amplifies the relation between appetitive-food-related neural responses and weight gain over three-year follow-up among adolescents. NeuroImage: Clinical, 24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2019.102067