Distraction decreases rIFG-putamen connectivity during goal-directed effort for food rewards

Iris Duif*, Joost Wegman, Kees de Graaf, Paul A.M. Smeets, Esther Aarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Distracted eating can lead to increased food intake, but it is unclear how. We aimed to assess how distraction affects motivated, goal-directed responses for food reward after satiation. Thirty-eight healthy normal-weight participants (28F; 10M) performed a visual detection task varying in attentional load (high vs. low distraction) during fMRI. Simultaneously, they exerted effort for sweet and savory food rewards by repeated button presses. Two fMRI runs were separated by sensory-specific satiation (outcome devaluation) of one of the (sweet or savory) reward outcomes, to assess outcome-sensitive, goal-directed, responses (valued vs. devalued reward, post vs. pre satiation). We could not verify our primary hypothesis that more distraction leads to less activation in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) during goal-directed effort. Behaviorally, distraction also did not affect effort for food reward following satiation across subjects. For our secondary hypothesis, we assessed whether distraction affected other fronto-striatal regions during goal-directed effort. We did not obtain such effects at our whole-brain corrected threshold, but at an exploratory uncorrected threshold (p < 0.001), distraction decreased goal-directed responses (devalued vs. valued) in the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG). We continued with this rIFG region for the next secondary hypothesis; specifically, that distraction would reduce functional connectivity with the fronto-striatal regions found in the previous analyses. Indeed, distraction decreased functional connectivity between the rIFG and left putamen for valued versus devalued food rewards (pFWE(cluster) < 0.05). In an exploratory brain-behavior analysis, we showed that distraction-sensitive rIFG-responses correlated negatively (r = − 0.40; p = 0.014) with the effect of distraction on effort. Specifically, decreased distraction-related rIFG-responses were associated with increased effort for food reward after satiation. We discuss the absence of distraction effects on goal-directed responses in vmPFC and in behavior across participants. Moreover, based on our significant functional connectivity and brain-behavior results, we suggest that distraction might attenuate the ability to inhibit responses for food reward after satiation by affecting the rIFG and its connection to the putamen.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19072
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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