Researchers with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and University of Kansas Medical Center have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map brain responses to food logos in obese and healthy-weight children. Amanda Bruce, et al., “Brain Responses to Food Logos in Obese and Health Weight Children,” Journal of Pediatrics, November 2012. According to the study, 10 healthy-weight children and 10 obese children completed “self-report measures of self-control” and then underwent fMRI while viewing 60 food and 60 nonfood logos.

The results purportedly indicated that, when viewing food logos, “obese children showed significantly less brain activation than the healthy weight children in regions associated with cognitive control.” Obese children also apparently demonstrated “greater activation in reward regions when shown food logos compared with baseline blurred images,” although the researchers “did not find significantly greater brain activation in the OFC [orbitofrontal cortex] or ventral striatum, which have been identified in pervious food motivation neuroimaging studies.”

“This study provides preliminary evidence that obese children may be more vulnerable to the effects of food advertising,” said the study’s lead author in a November 30, 2012, press release. “One of the keys to improving health-related decisionmaking may be found in the ability to improve self-control.” Additional details about the researchers’ neuroimaging work appear in Issue 455 of this Update.