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Appetite. 2007 Jan;48(1):12-9. Epub 2006 Jul 26.

From motivation to behaviour: a model of reward sensitivity, overeating, and food preferences in the risk profile for obesity.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, York University, and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The reinforcing effects of addictive drugs and palatable foods are regulated, at least in part, by a common biological mechanism. The reactivity or sensitivity of these brain reward regions have been found to correlate significantly with the risk for a variety of drug addictions. Sensitivity to Reward (STR) is conceptualised as a psycho-biological personality trait rooted firmly in the availability of dopamine in the mesocorticolimbic ('common reward') pathways, and as such is a good candidate for studying motivational factors and eating behaviours. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether STR was related to behaviours that contribute to excess body weight. Structural equation modelling procedures were used with a sample of healthy adult women (n=151). We hypothesised that STR would positively predict overeating and a preference for foods high in fat and sugar; and that these two behaviour would, in turn, predict a higher Body Mass Index. Results provided an excellent fit of the model to our data confirming our view that a personality trait like STR can only influence a physical condition like body weight indirectly by the way it co-varies with behaviours that contribute directly to variation in the outcome variable.

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