Taking control: Working memory training in overweight individuals increases self-regulation of food intake

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Abstract

Working memory (WM) plays a critical role in cognitive control by shielding self-regulatory goals from distraction by desire-related thoughts and emotions. This study examined whether training WM increases self-regulation in overweight participants. It was hypothesized that WM training would decrease psychopathological eating-related thoughts, (over)consumption of food in response to emotions and external cues, food intake and body weight. Overweight participants (n = 50) performed 20-25 sessions of WM training or control/sham training. The dependent measures were self-reported eating-related psychopathology, self-reported emotional/external eating behavior, food intake during a bogus taste test, and body weight, assessed before training, immediately following training, and at one-month follow-up. Relative to control, WM training reduced psychopathological eating-related thoughts and emotional eating (but not external eating). These effects were still present at follow-up, one month later. Food intake and body weight did not show an overall effect of training, though WM training did reduce food intake among highly restrained participants. WM training effectively reduced eating-related thoughts, overeating in response to negative emotions, and food intake among participants with strong dietary restraint goals. Hence, these findings indicate that WM training may strengthen self-regulation by shielding dieting goals from distraction by unwanted eating-related thoughts and emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567–574
Number of pages8
JournalAppetite
Volume105
Early online date24 Jun 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Working memory
  • Training
  • EATING BEHAVIOR
  • UNITED-STATES
  • RESPONSE-INHIBITION
  • EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS
  • DIETARY RESTRAINT
  • STOP SIGNALS
  • WEIGHT-LOSS
  • CAPACITY
  • OBESITY
  • DIETERS

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