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Sex differences in cerebral responses to images of high versus low-calorie food

Killgore, William D.S.a; Yurgelun-Todd, Deborah A.b

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e32833774f7

Men and women differ in cerebral organization and prevalence rates of eating disorders. However, no studies have yet examined sex differences in cerebral responses to the caloric content of food images. Sixteen healthy adults (eight men; eight women) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing images of high-calorie and low-calorie foods. Compared with men, women showed significantly greater activation to calorie-rich foods within dorsolateral, ventrolateral, and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, middle/posterior cingulate, and insula. Men failed to show greater activation in any cortical region compared with women, although amygdala responses were greater in men at a more liberal threshold. When viewing high-calorie food images, women seem more responsive than men within cortical regions involved in behavioral control and self-referential cognition.

aAffective Neuroscience Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, Massachusetts

bCognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, The Brain Institute, University of Utah, and Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Correspondence to Dr William Dale Scott Killgore, PhD, Neuroimaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02478, USA

Tel: +1 617 855 3166; fax: +1 617 855 2770; e-mail:

Received 1 January 2010 accepted 6 January 2010

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.