Loughborough University
1-s2.0-S0149763423002166-main.pdf (1.66 MB)
Download file

The influence of physical activity on neural responses to visual food cues in humans: A systematic review of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies

Download (1.66 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-02, 11:01 authored by Abdul DeraAbdul Dera, Tonghui ShenTonghui Shen, Alice ThackrayAlice Thackray, Elanor C Hinton, James KingJames King, Lewis JamesLewis James, Paul S Morgan, Nathan RushNathan Rush, Masashi Miyashita, Rachel Batterham, David StenselDavid Stensel

This systematic review examined whether neural responses to visual food-cues measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are influenced by physical activity. Seven databases were searched up to February 2023 for human studies evaluating visual food-cue reactivity using fMRI alongside an assessment of habitual physical activity or structured exercise exposure. Eight studies (1 exercise training, 4 acute crossover, 3 cross-sectional) were included in a qualitative synthesis. Structured acute and chronic exercise appear to lower food-cue reactivity in several brain regions, including the insula, hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), postcentral gyrus and putamen, particularly when viewing high-energy-density food cues. Exercise, at least acutely, may enhance appeal of low-energy-density food-cues. Cross-sectional studies show higher self-reported physical activity is associated with lower reactivity to food-cues particularly of high-energy-density in the insula, OFC, postcentral gyrus and precuneus. This review shows that physical activity may influence brain food-cue reactivity in motivational, emotional, and reward-related processing regions, possibly indicative of a hedonic appetite-suppressing effect. Conclusions should be drawn cautiously given considerable methodological variability exists across limited evidence.


National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre

Jeddah University (Saudi Arabia)



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews




  • P (Proof)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Publisher statement

This is a PDF file of an article that has undergone enhancements after acceptance, such as the addition of a cover page and metadata, and formatting for readability, but it is not yet the definitive version of record. This version will undergo additional copyediting, typesetting and review before it is published in its final form, but we are providing this version to give early visibility of the article. Please note that, during the production process, errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain.

Acceptance date


Publication date


Copyright date







  • en


Abdulrahman Dera. Deposit date: 22 May 2023

Article number