BACKGROUND: Food-related visual cues may affect eating behavior and energy intake. The purpose of this study was to determine the neural response to pictures of food and whether or not the neural responses were associated with energy intake. METHODS: Using a cross-sectional design, 60 adults participated in this study. Each participant reported to the laboratory in a fasted state, were fitted with a 128-electrode electroencephalogram (EEG) net, and were shown pictures grouped into three categories: high-calorie foods, low-calorie foods, and distractor pictures. These pictures were shown in random order. Furthermore, participants were shown these pictures in one passive condition and two active conditions (also in random order). The passive condition required participants to view pictures in a relaxed state while neural responses were recorded. The active conditions required participants to be actively engaged with the picture by pressing or withholding a specified button on a keyboard (go/no go task). The active conditions included only high- and low-calorie foods. Event Related Potentials (ERP) of interest were the N2, P300, and late positive potential (LPP). The National Cancer Institute's Automated Self-administered 24-hour Dietary Recall (ASA24) was used to assess energy and macronutrient intake. RESULTS: The N2 amplitude, when amplitude for high-calorie pictures is subtracted from the amplitude of low-calorie pictures, was significantly different for each active condition (F = 41.23; p < 0.0001). However, neural responses to picture-type for the N2, P300 and LPP were not different (p > 0.05). The difference in N2 amplitude, for the high-calorie no go condition that results from the amplitude for low and high-calorie pictures being subtracted from each other, was significantly associated with carbohydrate intake (r = -0.263) and significantly predicted carbohydrate intake (regression coefficient = -56.821; p = 0.043) but not energy, fat, or protein intake (p > 0.05). Neither the P300 nor the LPP was correlated with or predicted energy and macronutrient intake (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: The N2 differentiates depending on the no go stimulus. The difference in N2 amplitude, for the high-calorie no go condition, may be an index of carbohydrate intake. The P300 and LPP do not appear to differentiate between pictures of high- and low-calorie foods, nor do they correlate with energy or macronutrient intake.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Exercise Sciences



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visual stimuli, food, EEG, LPP, P300, N2, energy intake