Congratulations to Jakob Simmank & Annette Horstmann, who published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience this October, entitled: Incidental rewarding cues influence economic decisions in people with obesity.
Recent research suggests that obesity is linked to prominent alterations in learning and decision-making. This general difference may also underlie the preference for immediately consumable, highly palatable but unhealthy and high-calorie foods. Such poor food-related inter-temporal decision-making can explain weight gain; however, it is not yet clear whether this deficit can be generalized to other domains of inter-temporal decision-making, for example financial decisions. Further, little is known about the stability of decision-making behavior in obesity, especially in the presence of rewarding cues. To answer these questions, obese and lean participants (n = 52) completed two sessions of a novel priming paradigm including a computerized monetary delay discounting task. In the first session, general differences between groups in financial delay discounting were measured. In the second session, we tested the general stability of discount rates. Additionally, participants were primed by affective visual cues of different contextual categories before making financial decisions. We found that the obese group showed stronger discounting of future monetary rewards than the lean group, but groups did not differ in their general stability between sessions nor in their sensitivity toward changes in reward magnitude. In the obese group, a fast decrease of subjective value over time was directly related to a higher tendency for opportunistic eating. Obese in contrast to lean people were primed by the affective cues, showing a sex-specific pattern of priming direction. Our findings demonstrate that environments rich of cues, aiming at inducing unhealthy consumer decisions, can be highly detrimental for obese people. It also underscores that obesity is not merely a medical condition but has a strong cognitive component, meaning that current dietary and medical treatment strategies may fall too short.