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Biol Psychol. 2001 Jul-Aug;57(1-3):153-77.

Food deprivation and emotional reactions to food cues: implications for eating disorders.

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NIMH Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention, University of Florida, Box 100165 HSC, Gainsville, FL 32610, USA.


Two studies examined emotional responding to food cues. In experiment 1, normal college students were assigned to 0-, 6- or 24-h of food deprivation prior to presentations of standard emotional and food-related pictures. Food deprivation had no impact on responses elicited by standard emotional pictures. However, subjective and psychophysiological reactions to food pictures were affected significantly by deprivation. Importantly, food-deprived subjects viewing food pictures showed an enhanced startle reflex and increased heart rate. Experiment 2 replicated the food deprivation effects from experiment 1, and examined participants reporting either a habitual pattern of restrained (anorexia-like) or binge (bulimia-like) eating. Food-deprived and binge eater groups showed startle potentiation to food cues, and rated these stimuli as more pleasant, relative to restrained eaters and control subjects. The results are interpreted from the perspective that startle modulation reflects activation of defensive or appetitive motivation. Implications of the data for understanding eating disorders are considered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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