Journal article Open Access

Suppressing images of desire: Neural correlates of chocolate-related thoughts in high and low trait chocolate cravers

Miedl, Stephan F.; Blechert, Jens; Meule, Adrian; Richard, Anna; Wilhelm, Frank H.

Chocolate is the most often craved food in Western societies and many individuals try to resist its temptation due to weight concerns. Suppressing chocolate-related thoughts might, however, lead to paradoxical enhancements of these thoughts and this effect might be more pronounced in individuals with frequent chocolate cravings. In the current study, neural and cognitive correlates of chocolate thought suppression were investigated as a function of trait chocolate craving. Specifically, 20 high and 20 low trait chocolate cravers followed suppression vs. free thinking instructions after being exposed to chocolate and neutral images. Enhanced cue reactivity was evident in high trait chocolate cravers in that they reported more chocolate-related thoughts selectively after chocolate images compared to their low trait craving counterparts. This cue reactivity was mirrored neurally by higher activation in the ventral and dorsal striatum, demonstrating enhanced reward system activity. Unexpectedly, high trait chocolate cravers successfully reduced their elevated chocolate thoughts in the suppression condition. This lends support for the use of thought suppression as a means of
regulating unwanted thoughts, cravings and imagery. Whether this thought manipulation is able to curb the elevated cue reactivity and the underlying reward sensitivity in chocolate cravers in applied settings remains to be shown.

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