Impulsivity and neural mechanisms that mediate preference for immediate food rewards in people with vs without excess weight Journal Articles uri icon

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  • People with excess weight (overweight or obese; body mass index [BMI]>25) are generally characterized as impulsive with regards to food. However, the underlying brain mechanisms of this impulsivity are not fully understood. As such, this study aims at understanding the neural mechanisms underlying impulsivity toward food rewards, as well as differences in delay discounting patterns for hypothetical food between people with vs without excess weight. To this end, participants (79 college students, 33 with excess weight and 46 without) performed a food delay discounting task and completed questionnaires related to food addiction and impulsivity. In the task, we manipulated the magnitude of immediate and delayed rewards and employed event-related fMRI design to measure brain activity. The results showed that people with excess weight, compared to those without, were more impulsive and presented a lower probability of choosing delayed rewards. The higher the BMI was, the lower the probability of choosing delayed rewards was. People with excess weight also had higher impulsivity scores than people with no excess weight. Moreover, people with excess weight had less activation in executive function areas such as the anterior cingulate gyrus, the frontal pole, and the inferior frontal gyrus in both difficult and easy decision-making conditions. These results suggest that hypo-activation of executive function areas may contribute to the progression of decision impulsivity in relation to food, which in turn is associated with excess weight.


  • Liu, Xing
  • Turel, Ofir
  • Xiao, Zhibing
  • He, Jinbo
  • He, Qinghua

publication date

  • February 2022