Subtypes of trait impulsivity differentially correlate with neural responses to food choices

Laura N van der Laan, Marjolein E A Barendse, Max A Viergever, Paul A M Smeets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Impulsivity is a personality trait that is linked to unhealthy eating and overweight. A few studies assessed how impulsivity relates to neural responses to anticipating and tasting food, but it is unknown how impulsivity relates to neural responses during food choice. Although impulsivity is a multi-faceted construct, it is unknown whether impulsivity subtypes have different underlying neural mechanisms. We investigated how impulsivity correlates with brain responses during food choice and in how far different impulsivity subtypes modulate brain responses during food choice differently. Twenty weight-concerned females performed an fMRI task in which they indicated for high and low energy snacks whether or not they wanted to eat them. Impulsivity subtypes were measured by the monetary delay discounting task and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (total BIS-11 and subscales). Only temporal subtypes of impulsivity, namely delay discounting and the BIS-11 non-planning subscale, modulated responses to food choice; both measures correlated positively with striatum activation during high versus low energy choices. However, only delay discounting predicted high energy choices, whereas BIS-11 non-planning independently related to a striatum region that reflects subjective stimulus value. To conclude, the brain mechanisms underlying subtypes of impulsivity have a common ground but differ in specific aspects of food-related decision-making. The findings advance our understanding of the neural correlates of different impulsivity subtypes in the food domain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-450
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Body Image
  • Body Weight/physiology
  • Delay Discounting/physiology
  • Feeding Behavior/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior/physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neostriatum/physiology
  • Young Adult


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