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Does food-drink pairings affect appetitive processing of food cues with different rewarding properties? Evidence from subjective, behavioral, and neural measures

Buodo, Giulia, Rumiati, Rino, Lotto, Lorella, Sarlo, Michela
Food quality and preference 2019 v.75 pp. 124-132
appetite, desserts, dissociation, meat, neurophysiology, pizza, processing stages, temporal variation
The present study aimed at investigating the impact of cultural conventions about food-drink pairings on subjective, behavioral, and neural responses to pictures of food with different rewarding properties (i.e., meat, pizza, and dessert). Viewing times, subjective ratings of appetite, valence and arousal, and event-related potentials (ERPs) were measured in response to food pictures in a passive viewing task. The conventional pairings elicited greater appetite, pleasantness, and arousal than the unconventional counterparts for pizza and dessert, but not for meat dishes. Neural processing of food cues was largely unaffected by cultural conventions, as indexed by the amplitude of the late positive potential (LPP) measured in successive time windows. Distinct temporal dynamics were observed for the processing of meat and pizza food. Pizza elicited greater positivity at 200–400 ms post-stimulus, suggesting immediate attentional capture, whereas meat elicited larger LPPs in later processing stages up to 1000 ms, suggesting sustained attention and possible delayed disengagement. Consistently, free viewing times, as an overt index of interest/attention, were found to be overall longer for meat than for the other food types. A dissociation emerged between self-report and neural measures of appetitive processing, as meat and pizza dishes were rated as comparably appetizing, pleasant, and arousing, whereas the ERP results highlighted a different motivational impact in distinct processing stages and over different time extents.