CHBH Seminar Series: Prof. Anne Roefs

Lectures Talks and Workshops, Life and Environmental Sciences, Medical and Dental Sciences, Research, Students
Thursday 27th February 2020 (13:00-14:00)
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Dr Ali Mazaheri:
Mr Chris Anderson:

We are pleased to announce that Prof. Anne Roefs, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience of Abnormal eating from Faculty of Psychology & Neuroscience, Maastricht University, will be delivering a seminar on Thursday 27th February with a location to be confirmed. 

Anne Roefs is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience of Abnormal eating at Maastricht University. She leads the ‘psychology of eating lab’ – a group of ~20 researchers who study the psychology of eating disorders and obesity ( Her research aims at understanding cognitive and neural processes in (ab)normal eating behavior. She received an NWO VIDI grant (2016) for her project “Mindset matters: how mindset, body weight, and dietary restraint influence neural representations of food.” She has published 95 articles in international journals. Her work has been cited >5.500 times (H-index = 42). 

Title: The dynamic nature of food reward processing in the brain 

The dominant view in the literature is that increased neural reactivity in the mesocorticolimbic system to highcaloric palatable foods and an attentional bias (AB) towards these foods are stable specific characteristics of people with obesity. In this talk, I will first discuss the inconsistency of findings in the food-neuroimaging literature and the problems associated with relying on reverse inference in this field. Next, I will present recent studies from our lab that suggest that neural responses to food stimuli are dynamic, and in synchrony with the current motivational and cognitive state of an individual.  In one of these studies we found that the level of neural activity in the mesocorticolimbic system was not significantly different for highly palatable versus highly unpalatable food stimuli, not even when the participants were required to evaluate taste of the presented visual food stimuli while in the scanner (hedonic attentional focus). Instead, the neural response in several brain regions included in this system was larger with a hedonic attentional focus than with a neutral attentional focus, independent of the palatability of the presented food stimuli. So, neural activity was different between attentional foci while the exact same visual food stimuli were presented. These results suggest that the level of neural activity in these regions may reflect motivational salience instead of being proportionate to the hedonic value of presented stimuli. In addition, we showed that food palatability could be decoded from multivoxel patterns of neural activity during task performance, mainly with the hedonic attentional focus. So, palatable versus unpalatable food stimuli could be distinguished based on neural activity, but only when using a multivariate approach to data analysis. In followup studies that we are currently analyzing, we hope to replicate these findings, and extend them to low-caloric foods, and to high- and low-restrained eaters of a healthy weight.  In the final part of my talk, I will present recent studies from our lab on the dynamic nature of AB for visual food stimuli. In two sets of studies, we used the recently introduced Trial-Level-Bias-Score methodology (Zvielli et al., 2015), which uses a sequence of bias scores to express the dynamic changes of AB during task performance. These studies provide first evidence for increased variability in AB for food in obese children. Finally, I will present the results of a study in which we introduced a modified version of the additional singleton paradigm (Theeuwes et al. 1998) to measure attentional capture by high-caloric food, and how it is influenced by both BMI and current mindset. 


CHBH Seminars are free to attend and are open to all, both within and outside the University. Booking is not required.

If you have any questions, please contact Dr Ali Mazaheri ( or Mr Chris Anderson (