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Probing Brain Activation During Eating in Humans Using Functional Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

4:00 PM-5:30 PM

BIOMED Seminar

Probing Brain Activation During Eating in Humans Using Functional Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)

Jennifer A. Nasser, PhD, RD
Associate Professor and Director of the PhD Program
Department of Nutrition Sciences
College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP)
Drexel University

Functional infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a unique brain scanning technique that allows for assessment of brain activation during an eating episode under “naturalistic” environmental conditions. Function Magnetic Resonance (fMRI) studies have allowed us to assess which brain regions are associated with food intake. Due to methodological limitations, fMRI data is usually collected while individuals either view pictures of foods, have minute amounts of caloric liquids dropped on the tongue, or consume a meal prior to imaging. In contrast, fNIRS measures changes in regional brain oxy and deoxy hemoglobin due to activation of neurons (i.e., hemodynamic coupling) during the eating episode.

Using fNIRS, our group has examined brain activation after a 2-3 hour fast, during consumption of preferred (usually at least 2kcal/gram) versus nonpreferred (approx. 0.4 kcal/gram) foods for 10 minutes representing the “preingestive” phase of eating. Using a high vs. low protein preload paradigm (HP 28 grams protein, LP 2 grams protein) we have assessed brain activation while consuming a low protein, high sugar/fat food (ice cream) 20 minutes after the preload consumption, (representing the “post-ingestive” phase of eating). Consistent with published fMRI results from the post-ingestive phase, our results show that during the preingestive phase, greater food intake occurs when medial prefrontal cortex activation is greater than lateral prefrontal cortex activation.

During the post-ingestive phase, decrease in intake after a high protein preload is positively correlated with increase in lateral prefrontal cortex activation. Additionally, fNIRS data suggests that brain activation occurs early in the eating phase and is a “driving” force for food intake, rather than a response to amount of food eaten. Of interest in the preload study is the observation that only about 46% of people responded to the high protein preload by reducing subsequent food intake, and that intake after the low protein preload appears to predict response to the high protein preload. This may be useful in crafting rapid intervention assessments for those needing assistance in reducing intake of high caloric food.

Jennifer Nasser, PhD, RD, is an Associate Professor, and Director of the PhD Program in Nutriton Sciences in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University. Dr Nasser received her PhD in Food Science and Nutrition from Rutgers University, and completed four years of postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University (two years in Obesity and Clinical Nutrition, and two years in Addiction Psychiatry).

Dr. Nasser was a faculty member of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center prior to coming to Drexel University in 2007. She has been funded by the NIH, The International Life Sciences Institute, The Wrigley Foundation, The DUCOM Clinical Tranlational Research Institute, and The College of Nursing and Health Professions. Her research involves the study of factors responsible for human food overconsumption, with special emphasis on the use of non-invasive methods of functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and electroretinography (ERG) to assess brain activation due to food consumption.

Contact Information

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