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Enhanced Go and Nogo learning in individuals with obesity


Overeating in individuals with obesity is hypothesized to be partly caused by automatic action tendencies to food cues that have the potential to override goal-directed dietary restriction. Individuals with obesity are often characterized by alterations in the processing of such rewarding food, but also of non-food stimuli, and previous research has suggested a stronger impact on the execution of goal-directed actions in obesity. Here, we investigated whether Pavlovian cues can also corrupt the learning of new approach or withdrawal behavior in individuals with obesity. We employed a probabilistic Pavlovian-instrumental learning paradigm in which participants (29 normal-weight and 29 obese) learned to actively respond (Go learning) or withhold a response (NoGo learning) in order to gain monetary rewards or avoid losses. Participants were better at learning active approach responses (Go) in the light of anticipated rewards and at learning to withhold a response (NoGo) in the light of imminent punishments. Importantly, there was no evidence for a stronger corruption of instrumental learning in individuals with obesity. Instead, they showed better learning across conditions than normal-weight participants. Using a computational reinforcement learning model, we additionally found an increased learning rate in individuals with obesity. Previous studies have mostly reported a lower reinforcement learning performance in individuals with obesity. Our results contradict this and suggest that their performance is not universally impaired: Instead, while previous studies found reduced stimulus-value learning, individuals with obesity may show better action-value learning. Our findings highlight the need for a broader investigation of behavioral adaptation in obesity across different task designs and types of reinforcement learning

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This paper was published in MPG.PuRe.

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