Neural mechanisms underlying food motivation in children and adolescents

Laura M. Holsen, Jennifer R. Zarcone, Travis I. Thompson, William M. Brooks, Mary F. Anderson, Jasjit S Ahluwalia, Nicole L. Nollen, Cary R. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Dramatic increases in childhood obesity necessitate a more complete understanding of neural mechanisms of hunger and satiation in pediatric populations. In this study, normal weight children and adolescents underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning before and after eating a meal. Participants showed increased activation to visual food stimuli in the amygdala, medial frontal/orbitofrontal cortex, and insula in the pre-meal condition; no regions of interest responded in the post-meal condition. These results closely parallel previous findings in adults. In addition, we found evidence for habituation to food stimuli in the amygdala within the pre-meal session. These findings provide evidence that normal patterns of neural activity related to food motivation begin in childhood. Results have implications for obese children and adults, who may have abnormal hunger and satiation mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-676
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants from NICHD (HD41672) and the Hall Family Foundation. The authors are grateful to Allan Schmitt and Muriel Williams for technical assistance and Stacey Ward for help in project coordination. We would also like to thank Dr. Sandra Hall for statistical consultation and Joshua Powell for assistance in fMRI data analyses.


  • Amygdala
  • Food motivation
  • Obesity
  • Pediatric
  • fMRI


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