• Now available! Download high quality food images for your own study!
  • Our main research method is functional MRI. Click on the image to read more about our research.

Welcome to the website of the Nutritional Neuroscience Laboratory

The Nutritional Neuroscience lab studies the neural correlates of taste, satiety and (unhealthy) food choice, gut-brain interactions, effects of personality characteristics on food-induced brain responses and functional neuroimaging in anorexia nervosa. For more details about our research, recent publications, or our team, check the corresponding pages in the menu above. On our Resources page, you can download stimuli and tasks developed in our laboratory.

FoRC Platform

The FoRC platform is a subject measurement program that provides researchers in Nutrition science and related fields with an easy to use and free alternative for commercial questionnaire and experiment management programs. The toolbox allows acquiring Food-Related subject Characteristics in a standardized manner.

The FoRC platform includes three components, the FoRC Toolbox, the Questionnaire Processor and the Test Battery. The FoRC Toolbox serves as a front-end for the open-source experiment builder OpenSesame. With the FoRC Toolbox you can easily generate, select, combine and run multiple existing questionnaires and tasks. The FoRC Toolbox comes with a Test Battery of questionnaires and tasks. The Questionnaire Processor can be used to process the log-files with raw data that are produced by the FoRC Toolbox.

It is available on SourceForge here.

FoRC Toolbox screenshot Figure FoRC Questionnaireprocessor

 Developed within the Nudge-It project, funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement 607310.

NeuroShop Virtual Supermarket

Within the VIRTUE project, we have developed a virtual supermarket which we freely share with the research community. 

A major obstacle in investigating how healthy eating interventions impact on the neural mechanisms underlying food choices is the lack of realistic neuroimaging paradigms. Aside from situational factors (lying in a supine position, noise), functional MRI tasks are generally highly simplified and therefore very different from the real-life food choice environment. Health interventions will ultimately have to function effectively in busy, complex real-life settings and therefore it is important to know how such interventions affect brain responses in a realistic setting. To this end, we have developed a virtual supermarket environment (The NeuroShop scan paradigm) for neuroimaging research. Virtual reality has a major potential for use in neuroimaging research: it has been shown that subjects quickly feel ‘embedded’, such that the actual situation (lying in an MRI scanner) is suppressed in favor of the virtual situation (walking in the supermarket).

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The first version of the NeuroShop scan paradigm has currently been finished and consists of two separate implementations of virtual reality, namely an immersive supermarket environment (the NeuroShop environment) and a choice task (the NeuroShop fMRI task). During the first phase of the MRI scanning paradigm, subjects walk around real-time in the NeuroShop Environment in order to become embedded in the virtual supermarket experience. In the current first version of the NeuroShop paradigm, they are viewing a screen and navigate through the environment by using mouse and keyboard or a joystick. It was developed in the free and open source 3D creation suite Blender. Participants can navigate in the supermarket by using the keyboard and mouse and select products by clicking them. The clicked product then disappears from the shelf and the productname is logged in a text file. The NeuroShop was designed to resemble a small supermarket of a Dutch market leader. We developed a script with which the shelves of the supermarket can be filled quickly and easily, such that individuals with limited knowledge of Blender can also adapt the products on the shelves of the NeuroShop. During the second phase, the functional MRI task, subjects are shown time-locked rendered movie clips of walking from one shelf to another, followed by choice screens.

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We performed a study with 29 subjects to investigate the level of presence of the NeuroShop environment. On all subscales (Involvement: M = 3.4, Sensory fidelity: M = 5.0, Adaptation: M = 5.4, and Interface quality: M = 5.5) of the Presence questionnaire (Wittmer et al., 2005) the NeuroShop environment scored higher or similar as other virtual supermarkets that are used in the research field (e.g, Waterlander et al., 2009).

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The NeuroShop research tools open up a wealth of research and development opportunities: it can be used for brain-based fine-tuning of existing health interventions to specific target groups and development of new interventions. The NeuroShop research tools can be used to investigate the effects of interventions and of factors involved in food choice on the neural mechanisms of food choice, such as packaging, in-store advertisements, discounts, pricing, etcetera. To facilitate this, we freely distribute the NeuroShop with a permissive license. 

Download links: NeuroShop virtual environment and the NeuroShop fMRI task. NB: These resources are provided "as is" under the GNU General Public License version 2.

Recently, a virtual reality version of the NeuroShop has been developed. It will be presented on the 2018 Innovation Expo. A video illustration impression can be found here

fMRI tasks

Below a diverse set of Presentation and E-Prime task scripts is provided under the GNU General Public License. Most of the Presentation tasks work with a so-called 'playlist' text file that specifies the task events (actions) and their parameters. The advantage of this approach is that event and stimulus order can be easily adapted or randomized and custom events can easily be added.

Food image viewing

Standardized food and non-food images can be obtained from the F4H Image Collection or other online resources like the FoodPics or FRIDa database. Note that images from the latter databases may not be optimized for use in fMRI tasks. It is highly recommended to obtain appropriate ratings from the different image categories, in particular liking and to pre-test images in your study population(s) (liking, familiarity, other parameters of interest).

  • Block design food viewing task DOWNLOAD

     Usage examples: Food (high-calorie, low-calorie) and Non-food viewing, Charbonnier et al. 2018. Healthy and unhealthy food viewing, Van Meer et al. 2016.

Food choice

We offer a variety of food choice tasks. It is crucial to collect ratings on the choice options (liking, caloric content, healthiness), either before or after scanning. Pretest to check for familiarity!

 Olfactory stimulation

 For olfactory stimuli it is crucial to consider familiarity and recognizability, especially when presented in the absence of a visual cue. In addition, odor intensity and liking should be assessed.

 Taste stimulation and consumption

Although water can in some studies be seen as the 'vehicle', for most gustatory studies it is recommended to use a control solution (artificial saliva).

 Other tasks


EC logo drap cmyk Supported by European Union Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement 607310. Nudge it logo

The Nutritional Neuroscience Lab is affiliated with the Image Sciences Institute of the UMC Utrecht, The Netherlands.