Send to

Choose Destination
PeerJ. 2019 Feb 28;7:e6550. doi: 10.7717/peerj.6550. eCollection 2019.

Recruitment of cognitive control regions during effortful self-control is associated with altered brain activity in control and reward systems in dieters during subsequent exposure to food commercials.

Author information

Department of Psychological Sciences, Rice University, Houston, TX, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States of America.
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States of America.
Contributed equally


Engaging in effortful self-control can sometimes impair people's ability to resist subsequent temptations. Existing research has shown that when chronic dieters' self-regulatory capacity is challenged by prior exertion of effort, they demonstrate disinhibited eating and altered patterns of brain activity when exposed to food cues. However, the relationship between brain activity during self-control exertion and subsequent food cue exposure remains unclear. In the present study, we investigated whether individual differences in recruitment of cognitive control regions during a difficult response inhibition task are associated with a failure to regulate neural responses to rewarding food cues in a subsequent task in a cohort of 27 female dieters. During self-control exertion, participants recruited regions commonly associated with inhibitory control, including dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Those dieters with higher DLPFC activity during the initial self-control task showed an altered balance of food cue elicited activity in regions associated with reward and self-control, namely: greater reward-related activity and less recruitment of the frontoparietal control network. These findings suggest that some dieters may be more susceptible to the effects of self-control exertion than others and, whether due to limited capacity or changes in motivation, these dieters subsequently fail to engage control regions that may otherwise modulate activity associated with craving and reward.


Dieting; Effort; Food cues; Individual differences; Self-control; fMRI

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PeerJ, Inc. Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center