Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition Science

First Advisor

Wayne W Campbell

Committee Member 1

David A Kareken

Committee Member 2

Thomas M Talavage

Committee Member 3

Megan A McCrory


Results from human neuroimaging studies consistently demonstrate that obesity is associated with altered neural reward processing of food-relevant cues. These observations have caused some investigators to question whether behavioral interventions such as dietary manipulations or physical activity might modulate processing of food cues in reward-related brain regions. The use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure neural responses to visual food stimuli is a commonly utilized paradigm for assessing neural reward responses relating to ingestive behavior of foods in humans. Using this study design, limited evidence suggests that increases in dietary protein and participation in acute and chronic aerobic exercise may modulate reward-related neural responses to visual food stimuli. However, data regarding the reliability of this fMRI-based paradigm to produce consistent results on multiple testing days and time course of responses following a meal have not been systematically studied. These data are critically important for the proper interpretation of existing literature and for the design of future intervention studies using this paradigm.