The effects of high-intensity exercise on neural responses to images of food

Daniel R Crabtree, Edward S Chambers, Robert M Hardwick, Andrew K Blannin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Acute bouts of high-intensity exercise modulate peripheral appetite regulating hormones to transiently suppress hunger. However, the effects of physical activity on central appetite regulation have yet to be fully investigated.

OBJECTIVE: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare neural responses to visual food stimuli after intense exercise and rest.

DESIGN: Fifteen lean healthy men [mean ± SD age: 22.5 ± 3.1 y; mean ± SD body mass index (in kg/m(2)): 24.2 ± 2.4] completed two 60-min trials-exercise (EX; running at ∼70% maximum aerobic capacity) and a resting control trial (REST)-in a counterbalanced order. After each trial, an fMRI assessment was completed in which images of high- and low-calorie foods were viewed.

RESULTS: EX significantly suppressed subjective appetite responses while increasing thirst and core-body temperature. Furthermore, EX significantly suppressed ghrelin concentrations and significantly enhanced peptide YY release. Neural responses to images of high-calorie foods significantly increased dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation and suppressed orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and hippocampus activation after EX compared with REST. After EX, low-calorie food images increased insula and putamen activation and reduced OFC activation compared with REST. Furthermore, left pallidum activity was significantly elevated after EX when low-calorie images were viewed and was suppressed when high-calorie images were viewed, and these responses correlated significantly with thirst.

CONCLUSIONS: Exercise increases neural responses in reward-related regions of the brain in response to images of low-calorie foods and suppresses activation during the viewing of high-calorie foods. These central responses are associated with exercise-induced changes in peripheral signals related to appetite-regulation and hydration status. This trial was registered at as NCT01926431.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-267
Number of pages10
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Early online date4 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Appetite
  • Appetite Regulation
  • Body Mass Index
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Food
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Reward
  • Young Adult


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of high-intensity exercise on neural responses to images of food'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this