Food is necessary for survival and as such, food is a primary reinforcer. Food can motivate and strengthen nearly any behaviour that leads to its delivery. In Western society, nowadays food surrounds us almost everywhere. We are not purely driven by hunger anymore and a lot of other factors influence our drive for food. Since a few decades the number of people being overweight has increased dramatically. However, there are also people who are not getting overweight or who even get thinner. What causes these individual differences in eating behaviour? One factor believed to play an important role in differences in eating behaviours is the individual difference in food reward evaluation. Food reward evaluation can be described as the subjective labeling of a food related stimulus according to the reinforcing value of that stimulus.
An important question is why food for some people is more rewarding (i.e. obese persons) and less for others (i.e. Anorexia Nervosa patients). Are there biological aspects that play a role? How is food-reward processing represented in the brain? Does taste or palatability play a role in the reinforcing value of food? In this research theme, the rewarding and reinforcing value of food and individual differences in this food-reward is examined by means of fMRI and behavioural economics.