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EMOTION REGULATION MODULATES DIETARY DECISION-MAKING VIA ACTIVITY IN THE PREFRONTAL-STRIATAL VALUATION SYSTEM

Morawetz C, Steyrl D, Berboth S, Heekeren HR, Bode S

Cereb Cortex 2020 Jun 22;bhaa147.

doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa147.

The consumption of indulgent, carbohydrate- and fat-rich foods is often used as a strategy to cope with negative affect because they provide immediate self-reward. Such dietary choices, however, can severely affect people’s health. One countermeasure could be to improve one’s emotion regulation ability.

We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the neural activity underlying the down-regulation of incidental emotions and its effect on subsequent food choices. We investigated whether emotion regulation leads to healthier food choices, and how emotion regulation interacts with the brain’s valuation and decision-making circuitry.

We found that

  • the down-regulation of incidental negative emotions was associated with a subsequent selective increase in decisions for tasty but also for healthy foods,

  • food preferences were predicted by palatability but also by the current emotional state,

  • emotion regulation modulated decision-related activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum.

These results indicate that emotional states are indeed important for food choice, and that the process of emotion regulation might boost the subsequent processing of health attributes, possibly via neural reward circuits. In consequence, our findings suggest that increasing emotion regulation ability could effectively modulate food choices by stimulating an incidental up-valuation of health attributes.

 

©2020 Affective Neuro Lab.