Influencing food choices by training: Evidence for modulation of frontoparietal control signals

Tom Schonberg*, Akram Bakkour, Ashleigh M. Hover, Jeanette A. Mumford, Russell A. Poldrack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To overcome unhealthy behaviors, one must be able to make better choices. Changing food preferences is an important strategy in addressing the obesity epidemic and its accompanying public health risks. However, little is known about how food preferences can be effectively affected and what neural systems support such changes. In this study, we investigated a novel extensive training paradigm where participants chose from specific pairs of palatable junk food items and were rewarded for choosing the items with lower subjective value over higher value ones. In a later probe phase, when choices were made for real consumption, participants chose the lower-valued item more often in the trained pairs compared with untrained pairs. We replicated the behavioral results in an independent sample of participants while they were scanned with fMRI. We found that, as training progressed, there was decreased recruitment of regions that have been previously associated with cognitive control, specifically the left dorsolateral pFC and bilateral parietal cortices. Furthermore, we found that connectivity of the left dorsolateral pFC was greater with primary motor regions by the end of training for choices of lower-valued items that required exertion of self-control, suggesting a formation of a stronger stimulus-response association. These findings demonstrate that it is possible to influence food choices through training and that this training is associated with a decreasing need for top-down frontoparietal control. The results suggest that training paradigms may be promising as the basis for interventions to influence real-world food preferences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-268
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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