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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #302339

Research Project: Dietary Guidelines Adherence and Healthy Body Weight Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: Effect of interpersonal and cognitive stressors on habituation and the utility of heart rate variability to measure habituation

Author
item Feda, Dennis - University Of Buffalo
item Roemmich, James

Submitted to: Stress and Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/10/2014
Publication Date: 11/13/2014
Citation: Feda, D.M., Roemmich, J.N. 2014. Effect of interpersonal and cognitive stressors on habituation and the utility of heart rate variability to measure habituation. Stress and Health. Available: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002.

Interpretive Summary: Stress promotes overeating. Habituation is defined as a reduction in responding across repeated presentations of a stimulus such as repeated tastes of the same food. Research has shown that obese people habituate to food more slowly than non-obese people. This results in longer eating sessions and greater energy intake. Dishabituators are factors such as a sound, a taste of a different food, or perhaps a negative thought that resume responding to or for the original stimulus or food. Stress may increase eating by acting as a dishabituator. Different types of stressors such as mental arithmetic (memory requirements), Stroop task (cognitive dissonance), and interpersonal speech (ego threat) may have different dishabituating properties on eating behavior. This study tested differences in the ability of different types of stressors to dishabituate motivated responding for food and tested heart rate variability (HRV) as a measure of habituation. Twenty women repeatedly pressed a computer mouse button at the rate of about 1 times per second for 2 minutes to get small portions of macaroni and cheese (motivated responding). They did this on three different days. After 24 min of responding and eating, one of the stressors was presented as a dishabituator on each of the 3 days. Motivated responding was reduced (habituated) across the 24 min (p < 0.001) with an increase (p < 0.001) in responding for food after each stressor (dishabituation) with no difference (p > 0.9) in magnitude of dishabituation by type of stressor. Measures of HRV showed both habituation to repeated presentations of the comfort food and dishabituation after the stressor. In conclusion, both cognitive and interpersonal stressors dishabituate motivated responding for food and increase energy intake at a meal, and HRV can be used to measure habituation in eating behavior research.

Technical Abstract: Interpersonal stressors promote eating. Habituation to the sensory properties of a food slows or stops motivated responding for a food. Stress may increase eating by acting as a dishabituator that prolongs responding for a food. Mental arithmetic (memory requirements), Stroop task (cognitive dissonance), and interpersonal speech (ego threat) stressors may have different dishabituating properties on eating behavior. This research tested differences in the ability of cognitive and interpersonal stressors to dishabituate motivated responding for food and tested heart rate variability (HRV) as a measure of habituation. Twenty women completed motivated responding for macaroni and cheese portions on three separate occasions. After 24 min of responding and eating, one of the stressors was presented as a dishabituator. Motivated responding was reduced across the 24 min (p < 0.001) with an increase (p < 0.001) in responding for food after each stressor with no difference (p > 0.9) in magnitude of dishabituation by type of stressor. Measures of HRV showed both habituation to repeated presentations of the comfort food and dishabituation after the stressor. In conclusion, both cognitive and interpersonal stressors dishabituate motivated responding for food and increase energy intake at a meal, and HRV can be used to measure habituation in eating behavior research.