Demos, Lillis, McCaffery, & Wing. 2019.

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APA Citation: 

Demos, K., Lillis, J., McCaffery, J., & Wing, R. (2019). Effects of Cognitive Strategies on Neural Food Cue Reactivity in Adults with Overweight/Obesity. Obesity, 27, 1577-1583.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of obesity have revealed key roles for reward-related and inhibitory control-related activity in response to food cues. This study examines how cognitive strategies impact neural food cue reactivity.

In a within-participants, block-design, fMRI paradigm, 30 participants (24 women; mean BMI = 31.8) used four mind-sets while viewing food: "distract" (cognitive behavioral therapy based), "allow" (acceptance and commitment therapy based), "later" (focusing on long-term negative consequences), and "now" (control; focusing on immediate rewards). Participants rated cravings by noting urges to eat on four-point Likert scales after each block.

Self-reported cravings significantly differed among all conditions (pairwise comparisons P < 0.05). Cravings were lowest when participants considered long-term consequences (LATER mind-set: 1.7 [SD 0.7]), were significantly higher when participants used the DISTRACT (1.9 [SD 0.7]) and ALLOW (2.3 [SD 0.9]) mind-sets, and were highest when participants used the NOW mind-set (3.2 [SD 0.7]). These behavioral differences were accompanied by differences in neural food cue reactivity. The LATER mind-set (long-term consequences) led to greater inhibitory-control activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. The cognitive behavioral therapy-based DISTRACT mind-set was associated with greater activity in executive function and reward-processing areas, whereas the ALLOW mind-set (acceptance and commitment therapy) elicited widespread activity in frontal, reward-processing, and default-mode regions.

Because focusing on negative long-term consequences led to the greatest decrease in cravings and increased inhibitory control, this may be a promising treatment strategy for obesity.