The choices we make whether we eat high or low energy food will have a tremendous impact on our body weight in the long run. Momentary food choices are highly dependent upon availability, price, reward value, and the individual’s physiological state. The more we understand these determinants of food choice, the better we can develop strategies for healthy eating. In the Nudge-it project, we aim to optimize the temporal and spatial description of neuronal circuits underlying food choice during hunger and satiety. We aim to achieve this by combining and improving different neuroimaging techniques. The proposed project benefits from the group’s considerable experience in the assessment of how food-related neuronal processes are affected by hormonal (e.g. insulin), nutritional (e.g. fat), and psychological (e.g. eating disorder) modulators.
Prof Andreas Fritsche (Internal Medicine, Nutritional Sciences) and Dr Hubert Preissl (fMEG Centre) lead independent research groups and have a longstanding productive collaboration. Both are also members of the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases (IDM) of the Helmholtz Center Munich at the University of Tubingen. Prof Fritsche will be mainly responsible for nutrition-related aspects and medical assessment of participants. Dr Preissl will be responsible for all neuroimaging related tasks including data analyses.
For a precise investigation of hypothalamic nuclei and the dopaminergic regions of the reward system/brain areas involved in hunger and satiety, we will implement recent developments in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures. In particular, we will employ high resolution anatomical MRI to delineate the hypothalamic nuclei and the reward system. Further, we aim to combine diffusion tensor imaging with resting state analysis to determine network structures and changes during different physiological states. Finally, we intend to establish a quantitative neural activity measure of hunger and satiety by arterial spin labelling techniques (ASL).
For an improved temporal resolution of responses of higher cortical regions involved in food choice, we will use MEG/EEG providing source space activations in specific areas and their temporal linkage. Specifically, we will investigate how hunger and satiety affect regions important for homeostasis and hedonic feeding.
Further, we aim to determine causality of regions involved in food choice by changing brain activity and determine its impact on behaviour. Therefore, we plan to manipulate defined neuronal structures using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which allows the facilitation or attenuation of cerebral activity.
Finally, we intend to establish a better mapping of homologous brain regions involved in processing of food reward in rats and humans to enhance the translational power of rodent models. Therefore, we will perform one fMRI study in humans that will be carried out directly analogous in rats. This study will be in close collaboration with R. Adan and Paul Smeets (UMCU). The group will be involved in WP3, WP4 and WP5 in co-operation with UMCU, WU, UNIBRIS and UZH.