Attentional bias to food cues in youth with loss of control eating

Lisa M. Shank, Marian Tanofsky-Kraff*, Eric E. Nelson, Lauren B. Shomaker, Lisa M. Ranzenhofer, Louise M. Hannallah, Sara E. Field, Anna Vannucci, Diana M. Bongiorno, Sheila M. Brady, Tania Condarco, Andrew Demidowich, Nichole R. Kelly, Omni Cassidy, W. Kyle Simmons, Scott G. Engel, Daniel S. Pine, Jack A. Yanovski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Emerging data indicate that adults with binge eating may exhibit an attentional bias toward highly palatable foods, which may promote obesogenic eating patterns and excess weight gain. However, it is unknown to what extent youth with loss of control (LOC) eating display a similar bias. We therefore studied 76 youth (14.5 ± 2.3 years; 86.8% female; BMI-z 1.7 ± .73) with (n = 47) and without (n = 29) reported LOC eating. Following a breakfast to reduce hunger, youth participated in a computerized visual probe task of sustained attention that assessed reaction time to pairs of pictures consisting of high palatable foods, low palatable foods, and neutral household objects. Although sustained attentional bias did not differ by LOC eating presence and was unrelated to body weight, a two-way interaction between BMI-z and LOC eating was observed (p = .01), such that only among youth with LOC eating, attentional bias toward high palatable foods versus neutral objects was positively associated with BMI-z. These findings suggest that LOC eating and body weight interact in their association with attentional bias to highly palatable foods cues, and may partially explain the mixed literature linking attentional bias to food cues with excess body weight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional bias
  • Binge eating
  • Loss of control eating
  • Obesity
  • Visual probe task


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