Computer training of attention and inhibition for youngsters with obesity: A pilot study

Sandra Verbeken*, Caroline Braet, Tiffany Naets, Katrijn Houben, Wouter Boendermaker, Zeepreventorium Vzw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Obesity is a widespread problem that starts from an early age. Previous studies suggest that obese youngsters have an attentional bias and an automatic approach tendency towards high-calorie food and display difficulties inhibiting impulses, which may result in a higher intake of (high-calorie) food. An interesting idea for improvement of the current obesity treatment is adding a program that enables to train their difficulties. Subjects were 36 youngsters aged 9-15 years old from an inpatient treatment program for obesity, randomized over a training group and an active control group. The training consisted of six training sessions with cognitive tasks aimed at enhancing inhibition towards unhealthy food items (with a go/no-go task), as well as decreasing a food approach bias (using an approach/avoidance task) and a food attentional bias (using a dot-probe task). The current study evaluated the feasibility, acceptability and initial effectiveness of the training and explores if these characteristics helps obese youngsters to maintain weight-loss once they return home at the end of their inpatient treatment program. Results on the cognitive performances were investigated during two measurement sessions, spread over 5 weeks while weight evolution was followed over 13 weeks. Results showed that the training program was feasible and acceptable to the majority of participants and clinicians. Furthermore, the preliminary findings suggest that the training tasks used were ineffective in this group of obese children. Lessons learned and suggestions for future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-447
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Childhood obesity
  • Inhibition
  • Attention
  • Approach/avoidance
  • Executive functioning

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