The effect of cognitive reappraisal on food craving and consumption: Does working memory capacity influence reappraisal ability? An event-related potential study

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Abstract

Regulating cravings for unhealthy foods in favour of healthier options is essential for weight management. Cognitive reappraisal, which involves changing the meaning of a stimulus to modify its emotional impact, has shown promise for regulating food craving and consumption. Eighty participants were presented with high-calorie (HC) and low-calorie (LC) food pictures preceded by cues signalling instructions to naturally view the food (i.e., passive viewing; LOOK) or to imagine the future consequences of consuming that food (i.e., cognitive reappraisal; REGULATE). Participants' subjective craving and event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured, and food consumption after the task was assessed. Participants’ working memory capacity (WMC) was measured with the automated Operation Span task. During cognitive reappraisal, cravings for HC foods decreased, whereas cravings for LC foods increased, compared to passive viewing. Cravings for LC and HC foods were correlated with consumptions of LC and HC foods, respectively. Occipital N1 (100–200ms) amplitudes were more negative for LC than for HC pictures, but were not modulated by strategy (LOOK or REGULATE), whereas early posterior negativity (EPN; 200–300ms) was not sensitive to food type (HC or LC) or strategy. Late positive potential (LPP; 400–1000ms) ERPs were largest in the HC-REGULATE condition, possibly due to cognitive processes induced by focusing on the consequences of unhealthy foods. Late LPP (1000–3000ms) was not affected by food type or strategy. LPP amplitudes were not correlated with cravings. WMC was weakly correlated with cravings for LC following reappraisal, suggesting that WMC may influence reappraisal ability. In sum, focusing on future consequences of eating may promote healthier food choices through craving regulation. Further research is needed to examine how regulatory effects evolve over time and how they relate to WMC and brain activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107112
JournalAppetite
Volume193
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

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  • ESSB PSY

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