Date of Award
Emotional eating behavior is characterized by eating a large amount of calorie dense sweet and/or high fat foods in an attempt to control, cope with, or avoid negative emotions. Numerous factors are likely to contribute to emotional eating behavior, including attentional factors, such as rumination and avoidance coping. Rumination based emotional eating (attention focused on negative stimuli while mindlessly eating) is often utilized to improve mood while dwelling on problems. However, for those inclined to escape/avoid troublesome thoughts, another type of emotional-eating pattern may be used. By focusing attention on food, emotional eating is believed to distract individuals from negative emotions. However, along with avoiding distressing thoughts, a strong attentional focus on food may also lead to diminished attention resources and subsequently the missing of self-preserving thoughts (e.g. dietary restraint or satiety). While Denke & Lamm (2015) explored neural mechanisms underlying rumination based emotional eating, to the best of our knowledge, no one has investigated the neural correlates underlying avoidance based emotional eating. This study examined how attentional sub-processes contribute to emotional eating behavior among female participants in a task designed to explore escape type emotional-eating behavior. Dense-array EEG and a version of the canonical attentional blink task were used to ascertain the neural correlates underlying the attentional sub-processes and how attentional activation differs for emotional eaters vs. non-emotional eaters. Findings do not support the food fixation escape type emotional-eater hypothesis, but do indicate task validity.
Denke, Gregory, "Attentional Sub-Processes Involved with Emotional Eating" (2018). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 2455.