Research press release


Nature Communications

Neuroscience: A mother's influence on her child's food choice



今回、Amanda Bruceたちは、行動試験と機能的磁気共鳴画像(fMRI)データを併用して、25人の小児被験者(8~14歳)が食べ物を選択する際の行動と脳活動を調べた。Bruceたちは、食品の画像を使って、60種の食品(例えば、リンゴ、ブロッコリー、フライドポテト、マシュマロ)のそれぞれについて、25人の被験者に味と健康関連特性の格付けをさせ、さらに、自分がどの程度食べたいと思うか(本人の食物選択)を答えさせた上で、母親が被験者に食べさせるために選ぶ可能性の程度を推測させた。この試験結果を行動モデルに組み込んだところ、被験者の食物選択は被験者本人の味の格付けと母親の食物選択の推定結果を組み合わせた結果だとする説明が最も的確であることが分かった。さらにfMRIデータからは、報酬価値に関係する脳領域である腹内側前頭前野(vmPFC)の活性化が被験者本人の食物選択と相関し、自己制御(セルフコントロール)に関係する脳領域である左の背外側前頭前野(dlPFC)の活性化が(被験者が推定した)母親の食物選択と相関していることが明らかになった。


When deciding which foods to eat, children take into account what they infer as their mother’s food preference for them, confirms a new study. The paper, which is published in Nature Communications this week, also pinpoints specific areas of the brain that become activated during children’s food choices.

Food decisions during childhood can establish lifelong, health-related, behavioural patterns. However, the neural mechanisms underlying children’s decision making, including during food choice, are not well understood.

Amanda Bruce and colleagues combined behavioural tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data in order to study behaviour and brain activity during food choice in 25 children between eight and 14 years of age. Using images of food items, they first asked the children to rate the taste and the health attributes of 60 food items, including apples, broccoli, French fries and marshmallows. Children were either asked to what degree they would like to eat a given food item (their personal choice), or to guess the likelihood of their mother choosing a given item for them to eat. The results, once incorporated into a behavioural model, showed that the children’s personal food choices were best explained as resulting from a combination of both their own taste ratings and their inferred mother’s preference for them. fMRI data further showed that activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) - a brain area implicated in reward value - was correlated with the children’s own food choices, whereas activation in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) - a region involved in self-control - was correlated with their mothers’ inferred food choice.

In addition, the authors found that, when children made their preferred choices, dlPFC had an inhibitory influence on brain activity in the vmPFC. These results suggest that, on a neural level, the preferences of caregivers can have regulatory effects on decision making in developing children.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms11700

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