SPLTRAK Abstract Submission
Sex differences in children’s brain response to food images varying in energy density and portion size
EJG BRIAN1, LK ENGLISH1, SN FEARNBACH1, M LASSCHUIJT2, SJ WILSON1, JO FISHER3, BJ ROLLS1, KL KELLER1
1The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, United States/2Wageningen University, Wageningen, Netherlands/3Temple University, Philidelphia, PA, United States
   Previous research in adults has shown that females have increased activity to food cues in brain regions involved with taste and reward processing compared to males. Whether there are sex differences in response to food cues in children has been underexplored. We tested the hypothesis that girls vs. boys show greater activity in cognitive control and reward regions (e.g., orbitofrontal cortex - OFC: fusiform gyrus: ventromedial prefrontal cortex - vmPFC) when viewing food images at 2 levels of energy density (ED; high vs. low) and 2 levels of portion size (PS; large vs. small). We used fMRI to assess BOLD signal in pre-adolescent children (n=47, 7-10 y, 53% girls). Brain regions of interest were defined a priori. Repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare differences in average BOLD activation for Large > Small PS and High > Low ED. Girls showed greater activation than boys in response to Large > Small PS in the posterior cingulate (p < 0.05). In contrast, girls showed lower activation than boys in response to Large > Small PS in the fusiform gyrus (P < 0.05) and to High > Low ED in the OFC (P < 0.05).  Girls and boys differed in their responses to food PS and ED cues, especially in brain regions implicated in object recognition, reward processing and motivation. Our results suggest sex-related differences in the evaluation of food cues.

Supported By: Penn State Social Sciences Research Institute. The National Center of Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH, GrantUL1TR000127