Brain activation and affective judgements in response to personal dietary images: An fMRI preliminary study

Sara L. Dodd, Jo Ann D. Long, Jiancheng Hou, Chanaka N. Kahathuduwa, Michael W. O'Boyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain activation studies associated with dietary behavior reveals significant interaction of biological and behavioral mechanisms in response to visualized food stimuli. Because food intake is influenced by neurosensory stimulation and memory cues, personalized food images may be useful in prompting appropriate affective responses to food intake, which may subsequently lead to healthier eating behaviors. The current study used a cross-sectional mixed methods approach to explore neural responses and self-perceptions of eating behavior during review of personalized food images. A sample of college students (N = 16; 9 females; M age = 21.44) used cell-phone cameras and an online dietary tracking website to collect and report three days of diet. Within 2–3 weeks of completing dietary tracking activity, participants underwent an fMRI scan while reviewing recorded personal images and text descriptions of their diet. They also responded to three questions related to memory for the food items and future eating intentions. Post-scan interviews explored how participants felt after reviewing personal food images and the possible impact that such review might have on future food choices. Whole brain analyses suggested, compared to a written dietary record, that the visualization of personal images of diet evoked greater brain activation in memory regions (e.g., superior frontal gyrus) along with mediating emotion (e.g., thalamus, putamen, anterior cingulate cortex), imagery and executive functions (e.g., inferior orbitofrontal gyrus, fusiform, and parietal lobe). This study offers preliminary support for the use of personal food images to strengthen dietary monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104561
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Dietary reporting
  • Eating affect and intentions
  • Personal food images
  • fMRI


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