Food Perception in Adults: Neuroimaging Findings

  • Alexandra P. F. Key
  • Evonne J. Charboneau
  • Ronald L. Cowan


This chapter presents an overview of the neuroimaging studies of food perception in adults. A brief introduction to EEG/ERP, PET, and fMRI methods is provided, followed by a review of current literature using these techniques in typical healthy participants to investigate brain structures and processes involved in visual, olfactory, and tactile perception of food-related stimuli. The role of higher-order cognitive processes (e.g., attention, self-control) is also examined. A separate section examines brain mechanisms of food perception in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder associated with insatiable appetite, chronic overeating, and obesity. Evidence across studies reveals that food stimuli are processed mainly by the same brain structures as other attention-grabbing nonfood stimuli, but the specific patterns of brain activity differ across satiated versus hungry states. Furthermore, perception of food stimuli can be affected by self-imposed eating restrictions and beliefs, even at the early, preattentive stages of information processing. Finally, examination of brain responses to food stimuli in a clinical group (Prader-Willi syndrome) reveals that differences in behavioral phenotypes are associated with altered brain functioning during perceptual categorization and affective evaluation of food stimuli, suggesting that brain-based measures can yield valuable information for improved understanding of typical and atypical eating behaviors.


Positron Emission Tomography Blood Oxygen Level Dependent Parahippocampal Gyrus Late Positive Potential Food Stimulus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Brodmann area


Blood oxygen level dependent




Event-related potential


Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Positron emission tomography


Prefrontal cortex


Prader-Willi syndrome



Preparation of this chapter was supported in part by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant P30HD15052 to the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra P. F. Key
    • 1
  • Evonne J. Charboneau
  • Ronald L. Cowan
  1. 1.Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human DevelopmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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