Food-induced brain responses and eating behaviour

Paul A M Smeets, Lisette Charbonnier, Floor van Meer, Laura N van der Laan, Maartje S Spetter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


The brain governs food intake behaviour by integrating many different internal and external state and trait-related signals. Understanding how the decisions to start and to stop eating are made is crucial to our understanding of (maladaptive patterns of) eating behaviour. Here, we aim to (1) review the current state of the field of 'nutritional neuroscience' with a focus on the interplay between food-induced brain responses and eating behaviour and (2) highlight research needs and techniques that could be used to address these. The brain responses associated with sensory stimulation (sight, olfaction and taste), gastric distension, gut hormone administration and food consumption are the subject of increasing investigation. Nevertheless, only few studies have examined relations between brain responses and eating behaviour. However, the neural circuits underlying eating behaviour are to a large extent generic, including reward, self-control, learning and decision-making circuitry. These limbic and prefrontal circuits interact with the hypothalamus, a key homeostatic area. Target areas for further elucidating the regulation of food intake are: (eating) habit and food preference formation and modification, the neural correlates of self-control, nutrient sensing and dietary learning, and the regulation of body adiposity. Moreover, to foster significant progress, data from multiple studies need to be integrated. This requires standardisation of (neuroimaging) measures, data sharing and the application and development of existing advanced analysis and modelling techniques to nutritional neuroscience data. In the next 20 years, nutritional neuroscience will have to prove its potential for providing insights that can be used to tackle detrimental eating behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-20
Number of pages10
JournalThe Proceedings of the Nutrition Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Appetite Regulation/physiology
  • Brain/physiology
  • Diet
  • Eating/physiology
  • Energy Intake/physiology
  • Feeding Behavior/physiology
  • Food Preferences/physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia/physiopathology
  • Learning
  • Obesity/physiopathology
  • Sensation/physiology


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