Brain Activation in Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters: An fMRI Study

Maria Coletta, Steven Platek, Feroze B. Mohamed, J. Jason van Steenburgh, Deborah Green, Michael R. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Restraint theory has been used to model the process that produces binge eating. However, there is no satisfactory explanation for the tendency of restrained eaters (REs) to engage in counterregulatory eating, an ostensible analogue of binge eating. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the authors investigated brain activation of normal weight REs (N = 9) and unrestrained eaters (UREs; N = 10) when fasted and fed and viewing pictures of highly and moderately palatable foods and neutral objects. When fasted and viewing highly palatable foods, UREs showed widespread bilateral activation in areas associated with hunger and motivation, whereas REs showed activation only in the cerebellum, an area previously implicated in low-level processing of appetitive stimuli. When fed and viewing high palatability foods, UREs showed activation in areas related to satiation and memory, whereas REs showed activation in areas implicated in desire, expectation of reward, and goal-defined behavior. These findings parallel those from behavioral research. The authors propose that the counterintuitive findings from preload studies and the present study are due to the fact that REs are less hungry than UREs when fasted and find palatable food more appealing than UREs when fed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-609
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • appetite
  • fMRI
  • hunger level
  • restraint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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