Romance, food, dieting, and fMRI, all in one study

Here’s a scientific study that combines the era’s most irresistible topics — romance, food, and dieting  — with the era’s favorite cogno-intellectual expensive electromechanical procedure, fMRI. The study is:

The way to her heart? Response to romantic cues is dependent on hunger state and dieting history: An fMRI pilot study,” Alice V. Ely, Anna Rose Childress, Kanchana Jagannathan, Michael R. Lowe [pictured here], Appetite, Volume 95, 1 December 2015, Pages 126–131. (Thanks to David Benoit for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, explain:

Michael_LoweParticipants were instructed not to eat or drink anything apart from water for 8 h prior to their scanning study visit…. After the first block participants consumed chocolate-flavored Ensure® (500 kcal, 12 g of fat, 80 g carbohydrate, 18 g protein)… all participants were scanned first in the fasted state and second in the full state….

Stimuli were shown for 500 ms, in a jittered fashion with an average inter-stimulus interval of 1.5 s…. Romantic cues were… the four most positively rated ‘sexual’ stimuli from female normative data. Though the most highly rated sexual cues for men are typically graphically erotic, these stimuli depicted fully-clothed couples heterosexual couples embracing, holding hands and in other states of romantic intimacy. Neutral cues were a car, stapler, tree and bowling ball.

Here’s further detail — a prettily arranged set of brain images — from the study. The caption on this image says, “Brain regions showing Nondieters’ (NDs) and Historical Dieters’ (HDs) BOLD response to Romantic-Neutral cues, Fed-Fasted”: