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Learning to eat sweets: The effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning

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Abstract
Aim In the present obesogenic environment, food cue reactivity is an important determinant of eating behavior. However, not all individuals are equally sensitive to the appetitive effects of palatable foods in the environment. Cue elicited eating is particularly relevant for people with high sensitivity to reward (SR). SR is a biologically based personality characteristic referring to one’s ability to derive pleasure in the presence of appetitive stimuli, like food. In adolescence, SR peaks, while, in this developmental phase, the development of inhibitory control processes is lagging behind. In this presentation, we will discuss the effects of SR and age on food cue reactivity. We expect that individuals with increased SR (and adolescents) will exhibit higher food cue reactivity. Method The method of choice in the experimental study of cue reactivity is the classical conditioning paradigm. The effects of SR and age on classical conditioning are tested with a simple reward/non-reward discrimination paradigm in different age groups. Reward expectancy and craving are assessed using a visual analogue scale. We expect that people with higher SR will learn faster when to expect a reward (acquisition) than people with lower SR. On the other hand, those with higher SR might have more difficulties to learn when expected rewards are being withheld (extinction). We expect learning effects to be most explicit in adolescence. Results In adolescents (n=20), SR did not influence how individuals learned when to expect a reward. However, it was confirmed that extinction of appetitive stimuli is impaired in people with high SR. When an expected reward no longer appears, the craving of adolescents with high SR does not subside. On the contrary, their craving increases. In addition to these results in adolescents, results in other age groups will be discussed. Conclusion Although we found no effect of SR on acquisition, extinction of craving is influenced by SR. Since craving is a strong risk factor for maladaptive eating behaviors, adolescents with high SR are vulnerable for overeating. Treatment efforts aimed at decreasing the effects of SR, for example by increasing inhibitory control, might be beneficial for those vulnerable individuals.

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Chicago
Vervoort, Leentje, Laura Vandeweghe, Bram Vervliet, and Caroline Braet. 2016. “Learning to Eat Sweets: The Effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning.” In World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies.
APA
Vervoort, Leentje, Vandeweghe, L., Vervliet, B., & Braet, C. (2016). Learning to eat sweets: The effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning. World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies. Presented at the World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies.
Vancouver
1.
Vervoort L, Vandeweghe L, Vervliet B, Braet C. Learning to eat sweets: The effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning. World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies. 2016.
MLA
Vervoort, Leentje, Laura Vandeweghe, Bram Vervliet, et al. “Learning to Eat Sweets: The Effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning.” World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies. 2016. Print.
@inproceedings{8053456,
  abstract     = {Aim
In the present obesogenic environment, food cue reactivity is an important determinant of eating behavior. However, not all individuals are equally sensitive to the appetitive effects of palatable foods in the environment. Cue elicited eating is particularly relevant for people with high sensitivity to reward (SR). SR is a biologically based personality characteristic referring to one{\textquoteright}s ability to derive pleasure in the presence of appetitive stimuli, like food. In adolescence, SR peaks, while, in this developmental phase, the development of inhibitory control processes is lagging behind. 
In this presentation, we will discuss the effects of SR and age on food cue reactivity. We expect that individuals with increased SR (and adolescents) will exhibit higher food cue reactivity.

Method
The method of choice in the experimental study of cue reactivity is the classical conditioning paradigm. The effects of SR and age on classical conditioning are tested with a simple reward/non-reward discrimination paradigm in different age groups. Reward expectancy and craving are assessed using a visual analogue scale.
We expect that people with higher SR will learn faster when to expect a reward (acquisition) than people with lower SR. On the other hand, those with higher SR might have more difficulties to learn when expected rewards are being withheld (extinction). We expect learning effects to be most explicit in adolescence.

Results
In adolescents (n=20), SR did not influence how individuals learned when to expect a reward. However, it was confirmed that extinction of appetitive stimuli is impaired in people with high SR. When an expected reward no longer appears, the craving of adolescents with high SR does not subside. On the contrary, their craving increases. In addition to these results in adolescents, results in other age groups will be discussed.

Conclusion
Although we found no effect of SR on acquisition, extinction of craving is influenced by SR. Since craving is a strong risk factor for maladaptive eating behaviors, adolescents with high SR are vulnerable for overeating. Treatment efforts aimed at decreasing the effects of SR, for example by increasing inhibitory control, might be beneficial for those vulnerable individuals.},
  author       = {Vervoort, Leentje and Vandeweghe, Laura and Vervliet, Bram and Braet, Caroline},
  booktitle    = {World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Melbourne},
  title        = {Learning to eat sweets: The effects of Reward Sensitivity and Age on Appetitive Conditioning},
  year         = {2016},
}