Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Craving of unhealthy food is a common target of self-regulation, but the neural systems underlying this process are understudied. In this study, participants used cognitive reappraisal to regulate their desire to consume idiosyncratically craved or not craved energy-dense foods, and neural activity during regulation was compared with each other and with the activity during passive viewing of energy-dense foods. Regulation of both food types elicited activation in classic top–down self-regulation regions including the dorsolateral prefrontal, inferior frontal, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortices. This main effect of regulation was qualified by an interaction, such that activation in these regions was significantly greater during reappraisal of craved (versus not craved) foods and several regions, including the dorsolateral prefrontal, inferior frontal, medial frontal, and dorsal anterior cingulate cortices, were uniquely active during regulation of personally craved foods. Body mass index significantly negatively correlated with regulation-related activation in the right dorsolateral PFC, thalamus, and bilateral dorsal ACC and with activity in nucleus accumbens during passive viewing of craved (vs. neutral, low-energy density) foods. These results suggest that several of the brain regions involved in the self-regulation of food craving are similar to other kinds of affective self-regulation and that others are sensitive to the self-relevance of the regulation target.