The Effect of Food Images on Mood and Arousal Depends on Dietary Histories and the Fat and Sugar Content of Foods Depicted


Background: While brain imaging studies show that reward regions in the human brain that regulate reward-guided behavior and integrate sensory modalities of smell, taste, and texture respond preferentially to high calorie foods, few studies account for dietary histories or account for recent behavioral evidence showing preferential responding for fruits (a low calorie food that tastes sweet). To address these concerns, the present study tested the hypothesis that images of high/low fat and sugar foods, even sugary foods that are low calorie (i.e., fruits), will enhance emotional responsiveness and that these changes may be related to dietary histories with fat and sugar intake. Method: Participants were shown 4 sets of 15 food images with each food image automatically timed every 9 s to transition to a new food image; participant pre-post mood and arousal was measured. The 4 sets of food images were high fat-high sugar (HFHS; desserts), high fat-low sugar (HFLS; fried foods), low fat-high sugar (LFHS; fruits), or low fat-low sugar (LFLS; vegetables) foods. To account for dietary histories, participants also completed estimated daily intake scales (EDIS) for sugar and fat. Results: Mood and arousal significantly increased in all groups, except Group LFLS, and even in a group that was low calorie but shown foods that taste sweet, i.e., Group LFHS. Interestingly, changes in arousal, but not mood, were dependent on participant histories with sugar and fat intake. Conclusion: Changes in emotional responsiveness to food images were nutrient-specific, which can be a more detailed level of analysis for assessing responsiveness to food images. Also, participant histories with sugar and fat should be taken into account as these histories can explain the changes in arousal observed here.

Share and Cite:

Privitera, G. , Antonelli, D. and Creary, H. (2013) The Effect of Food Images on Mood and Arousal Depends on Dietary Histories and the Fat and Sugar Content of Foods Depicted. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 3, 1-6. doi: 10.4236/jbbs.2013.31001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] L. Christensen and C. Redig, “Effect of Meal Composition on Mood,” Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 107, No. 2, 1993, pp. 346-353. doi:10.1037/0735-7044.107.2.346
[2] A. W. Logue, “The Psychology of Eating and Drinking,” 3rd Edition, Brunner-Routledge, New York, 2004.
[3] M. Macht and G. Simons, “Emotions and Eating in Everyday Life,” Appetite, Vol. 35, No. 1, 2000, pp. 65-71. doi:10.1006/appe.2000.0325
[4] B. Wansink, M. M. Cheney and N. Chan, “Exploring Comfort Food Preferences across Age and Gender,” Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 79, No. 4-5, 2003, pp. 739-747. doi:10.1016/S0031-9384(03)00203-8
[5] G. J. Privitera, “The Psychological Dieter: It’s Not All about the Calories,” University Press of America, Lanham, 2008.
[6] A. Letarte, L. Dubé and V. Troche, “Similarities and Differences in Affective and Cognitive Origins of Food Likings and Dislikes,” Appetite, Vol. 28, No. 2, 1997, pp. 115-129. doi:10.1006/appe.1996.0069
[7] L. Dubé, J. L. LeBel and J. Lu, “Affect Asymmetry and Comfort Food Consumption,” Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 86, No. 4, 2005, pp. 559-567. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2005.08.023
[8] M. S. Faith, D. B. Allison and A. Geliebter, “Emotional Eating and Obesity: Theoretical Considerations and Practical Recommendations,” In: S. Dalton, Ed., Overweight and Weight Management: The Health Professional’s Guide to Understanding and Practice, Aspen Publishers, Gaithersburg, 1997, pp. 439-465.
[9] S. C. Sanderson, “Obesity Risk,” In: K. P. Tercyak, Ed., Handbook of Genomics and the Family: Psychosocial Context for Children and Adolescents, Springer Science + Business Media, New York, 2010, pp. 329-343.
[10] W. D. Killgore, A. D. Young, L. A. Femia, P. Bogorodzki, J. Rogowska and D. A. Yurgelun-Todd, “Cortical and Limbic Activation during Viewing of Highversus LowCalorie Foods,” Neuroimage, Vol. 19, No. 4, 2003, pp. 1381-1394. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00191-5
[11] W. K. Simmons, A. Martin and L. W. Barsalou, “Pictures of Appetizing Foods Activate Gustatory Cortices for Taste and Reward,” Cerebral Cortex, Vol. 15, No. 10, 2005, pp. 1602-1608. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhi038
[12] S. Frank, N. Laharnar, S. Kullmann, R. Veit, C. Canova, Y. L. Hegner, et al., “Processing of Food Pictures: Influence of Hunger, Gender and Calorie Content,” Brain Research, Vol. 1350, 2010, pp. 159-166. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2010.04.030
[13] E. T. Rolls, “The Rules of Formation of the Olfactory Representations Found in the Orbitofrontal Cortex Olfactory Areas in Primates,” Chemical Senses, Vol. 26, No. 5, 2001, pp. 595-604. doi:10.1093/chemse/26.5.595
[14] K. Porubská, R. Veit, H. Preissl, A. Fritsche and N. Birbaumer, “Subjective Feeling of Appetite Modulates Brain Activity: An fMRI Study,” Neuroimage, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2006, pp. 1273-1280. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.04.216
[15] G. J. Wang, N. D. Volkow, F. Telang, M. Jayne, J. Ma, M. Rao, et al., “Exposure to Appetitive Food Stimuli Markedly Activates the Human Brain,” Neuroimage, Vol. 21, No. 4, 2004, pp. 1790-1797. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2003.11.026
[16] G. J. Wang, N. D. Volkow, F. Telang, M. Jayne, Y. Ma, K. Pradhan, et al., “Evidence of Gender Differences in the Ability to Inhibit Brain Activation Elicited by Food Stimulation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 106, No. 4, 2009, pp. 1249-1254.
[17] W. D. Killgore and D. A. Yurgelun-Todd, “Positive Affect Modulates Activity in the Visual Cortex to Images of High Calorie Foods,” International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 117, No. 5, 2007, pp. 643-653. doi:10.1080/00207450600773848
[18] B. Fletcher, K. J. Pine, Z. Woodridge and A. Nash, “How Visual Images of Chocolate Affect the Craving and Guilt of Female Dieters,” Appetite, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2007, pp. 211-217. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2006.09.002
[19] D. D. Wagner, R. G. Boswell, W. M. Kelley and T. F. Heatherton, “Inducing Negative Affect Increases the Reward Value of Appetizing Foods in Dieters,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Vol. 24, No. 7, 2012, pp. 16251633. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00238
[20] H. Yoshimura, M. Honjo, T. Sugai, M. Kawabe, K. Kaneyama, N. Segami and N. Kato, “Influences of Audio-Visual Environments on Feelings of Deliciousness during Having Sweet Foods: An Electroencephalogram Frequency Analysis Study,” Nutritional Neuroscience, Vol. 14, No. 5, 2011, pp. 210-215.
[21] J. E. Painter, B. Wansink and J. B. Hieggelke, “How Visibility and Convenience Influence Candy Consumption,” Appetite, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2002, pp. 237-238. doi:10.1006/appe.2002.0485
[22] B. Wansink, J. E. Painter and Y.-K. Lee, “The Office Candy Dish: Proximity’s Influence on Estimated and Actual Consumption,” International Journal of Obesity, Vol. 30, No. 5, 2006, pp. 871-875. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803217
[23] G. J. Privitera and H. E. Creary, “Proximity and Visibility of Fruits and Vegetables Influences Intake in a Kitchen Setting among College Students,” Environment and Behavior, in Press. doi:10.1177/0013916512442892
[24] J. A. Russell, A. Weiss and G. A. Mendelsohn, “Affect Grid: A Single-Item Scale of Pleasure and Arousal,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 57, No. 3, 1989, pp. 493-502. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.57.3.493
[25] G. J. Privitera and M. Wallace, “An Assessment of Liking for Sugars Using the Estimated Daily Intake Scale,” Appetite, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2011, pp. 713-718. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.02.008
[26] G. J. Privitera and C. S. Freeman, “Validity and Reliability of an Estimated Daily Intake Scale for Fat,” Global Journal of Health Science, Vol. 4, No. 2, 2012, pp. 36-41. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v4n2p36
[27] P. J. Lang and M. Davis, “Emotion, Motivation, and the Brain: Reflex Foundations in Animal and Human Research,” Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 156, 2006, pp. 3-29.
[28] M. Rothkirch, K. Schmack, F. Schlagenhauf and P. Sterzer, “Implicit Motivational Value and Salience are Processed in Distinct Areas of Orbitofrontal Cortex,” Neuroimage, Vol. 62, No. 3, 2012, pp. 1717-1725. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.06.016
[29] A. E. Kelley and K. C. Berridge, “The Neuroscience of Natural Rewards: Relevance to Addictive Drugs,” The Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 22, No. 9, 2002, pp. 33063311.
[30] M. L. Kringelbach, “The Human Orbitofrontal Cortex: Linking Reward to Hedonic Experience,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Vol. 6, No. 9, 2005, pp. 691-702. doi:10.1038/nrn1747
[31] W. Schultz, “Neural Coding of Basic Reward Terms of Animal Learning Theory, Game Theory, and Microeconomics and Behavioural Ecology,” Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2004, pp. 139-147. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2004.03.017
[32] E. D. Capaldi and G. J. Privitera, “Decreasing Dislike for Sour and Bitter in Children and Adults,” Appetite, Vol. 50, No. 1, 2008, pp. 139-145. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2007.06.008
[33] G. J. Privitera, C. P. Mulcahey and C. M. Orlowski, “Human Sensory Preconditioning in a Flavor Preference Paradigm,” Appetite, Vol. 59, No. 2, 2012, pp. 414-418. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2012.06.005

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.