Satiation attenuates BOLD activity in brain regions involved in reward and increases activity in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex: an fMRI study in healthy volunteers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Colin T Dourish
  • Catherine J Harmer
  • Ciara McCabe

Colleges, School and Institutes


BACKGROUND: Neural responses to rewarding food cues are significantly different in the fed vs. fasted (>8 h food-deprived) state. However, the effect of eating to satiety after a shorter (more natural) intermeal interval on neural responses to both rewarding and aversive cues has not been examined.

OBJECTIVE: With the use of a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) task, we investigated the effect of satiation on neural responses to both rewarding and aversive food tastes and pictures.

DESIGN: Sixteen healthy participants (8 men, 8 women) were scanned on 2 separate test days, before and after eating a meal to satiation or after not eating for 4 h (satiated vs. premeal). fMRI blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signals to the sight and/or taste of the stimuli were recorded.

RESULTS: A whole-brain cluster-corrected analysis (P < 0.05) showed that satiation attenuated the BOLD response to both stimulus types in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), orbitofrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, hypothalamus, and insula but increased BOLD activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC; local maxima corrected to P ≤ 0.001). A psychophysiological interaction analysis showed that the vmPFC was more highly connected to the dlPFC when individuals were exposed to food stimuli when satiated than when not satiated.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that natural satiation attenuates activity in reward-related brain regions and increases activity in the dlPFC, which may reflect a "top down" cognitive influence on satiation. This trial was registered at as NCT02298049.

Bibliographic note

© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-704
Number of pages8
JournalThe American journal of clinical nutrition
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015