This article is part of the Research Topic The two-way link between eating behavior and brain metabolism

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 25 March 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00249

Meal replacement: calming the hot-state brain network of appetite

Brielle M. Paolini1*, Paul J. Laurienti1,2, James Norris2,3 and W. Jack Rejeski2,4,5
  • 1Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
  • 2Translational Science Center, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
  • 3Department of Mathematics, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
  • 4Department of Health and Exercise Science, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
  • 5Department of Geriatric Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

There is a growing awareness in the field of neuroscience that the self-regulation of eating behavior is driven by complex networks within the brain. These networks may be vulnerable to “hot states” which people can move into and out of dynamically throughout the course of a day as a function of changes in affect or visceral cues. The goal of the current study was to identify and determine differences in the Hot-state Brain Network of Appetite (HBN-A) that exists after a brief period of food restraint followed either by the consumption of a meal replacement (MR) or water. Fourteen overweight/obese adults came to our laboratory on two different occasions. Both times they consumed a controlled breakfast meal and then were restricted from eating for 2.5 h prior to an MRI scan. On one visit, they consumed a meal replacement (MR) liquid meal after this period of food restriction; on the other visit they consumed an equal amount of water. After these manipulations, the participants underwent a resting fMRI scan. Our first study aim employed an exploratory, data-driven approach to identify hubs relevant to the HBN-A. Using data from the water condition, five regions were found to be the hubs or nodes of the HBN-A: insula, anterior cingulated cortex, the superior temporal pole, the amygdala, and the hippocampus. We then demonstrated that the consumption of a liquid MR dampened interconnectivity between the nodes of the HBN-A as compared to water. Importantly and consistent with these network data, the consumption of a MR beverage also lowered state cravings and hunger.

Keywords: meal replacement, craving, eating behavior, obesity, brain networks, graph-theory

Citation: Paolini BM, Laurienti PJ, Norris J and Rejeski WJ (2014) Meal replacement: calming the hot-state brain network of appetite. Front. Psychol. 5:249. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00249

Received: 18 December 2013; Paper pending published: 13 January 2014;
Accepted: 05 March 2014; Published online: 25 March 2014.

Edited by:

Tanya Zilberter, Infotonic Conseil, France

Reviewed by:

Guido Frank, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, USA
Martijn Veltkamp, FrieslandCampina, Netherlands

Copyright © 2014 Paolini, Laurienti, Norris and Rejeski. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Brielle M. Paolini, Department of Radiology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA e-mail:

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