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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. 

NOTICE: This website will be discontinued by the end of 2021. Resources can still be found at the OSF project pages of Paul Smeets.


On Friday 20th of March we organise a symposium on decision-making in the food domain: from brain to behavior change.

Please see the poster and announcement below. 

Topic: Many health and social issues, like obesity, addiction, and financial problems, are caused by disadvantageous decision-making. A domain in which this is particularly prevalent is food choice. Many individuals find it difficult to forgo immediate rewards, such as tasty snacks, to attain longer term benefits, such as a healthy and slim body. These kinds of dilemmas require exertion of self-control. Recent neuroimaging studies have started elucidating the underlying neural mechanisms of food choice and self-control. Also, possible sources of self-control failure, such as a lack of conflict monitoring, have been identified.

Classical interventions for behaviour change and for promoting healthy eating in particular rely on the exertion of self-control, but these have been shown to be ineffective in the long term. Novel types of interventions for behaviour change, which employ non-reinforced mechanisms, hold great promise for promoting healthy eating. In this symposium two novel approaches to behaviour change will be presented. Recent work showed that repeatedly linking stop-signals (cues that indicate that behaviour should be withheld) to palatable foods decreases food valuation and results in healthier food choices. Conversely, linking approach cues to certain foods leads to preference changes favouring the previously cued item.

The presenters in this symposium will cover recent work on the neural mechanisms underlying decision-making in the food domain and on cognitive control. The neural mechanisms through which these novel interventions impact on decision-making are currently being elucidated and future directions will be presented at the symposium.

Target group: Neuroscientists, psychologists and behavioural scientists, as well as anyone with a general interest in understanding how decisions are made in the brain. There are four free slots of 15 min (10-min presentations + 5-min questions) for PhD-student and postdocs who can share their research and benefit from extensive feedback from the experts present at the workshop. PhD-students and postdocs in the field of behaviour change and decision-making who are interested in presenting their research during the symposium are warmly invited to send an e-mail with a title to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before March 10th. If more than four students/postdocs sign up, we will make a selection based on appropriateness of the topic. Candidates will be informed on March 13th at the latest. Selected candidates are exempt from paying registration fee and thus can attend the symposium for free.

Registration fee: €25 (including coffee/tea, lunch and drinks) early bird rate when you register before February 20th. After that, registration fee is € 30. You can register by sending a mail with your name, title, function, and affiliation to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before March 17th. Please also indicate any dietary wishes (e.g., vegetarian or food allergies).

Organizers: This symposium is organized by Dr. Paul Smeets & Dr. Nynke van der Laan, Nutritional Neuroscience Lab (www.nutritionalneuroscience.eu).

Date and time: Friday March 20th, 10:15 – 16:00 h.

Location: University Medical Center Utrecht, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht. Auditorium bouwdeel Q, room Q 01.226.  

… - 10:15: Coffee and registration
10:15 – 10:30: Opening
10:30 – 11:15: Dr. Tom Schonberg (Tel Aviv University) – New findings on the cue-approach effect: An automatic mechanism of behaviour change
11:15 – 12:00: Prof. Russ Poldrack (Stanford University) - Decision making and cognitive control: Towards a new synthesis
12:00 – 13:00: Lunch
13:00 – 13:45: Dr. Harm Veling (Radboud University) - New insights in training responses to foods: Creating and breaking habits?
13:45 – 14:30: Dr. Paul Smeets (UMC Utrecht) - What do you want to eat now? Neural correlates of making food choices
14:30 – 14:45: Coffee break
14:45 – 15:15: Miguel Alonso-Alonso, MD (Harvard Medical School) - Studying food choice in a semi-naturalistic setting
Slots for four presentations or PhD students or postdocs (15 minutes each)
15:15 – 15:30: Zhang Chen, MSc (Radboud University) - When does Go/no-go training influence food evaluations
15:30 – 15:45: Dr. Andreas Jarvstad (University of Bristol) - Food choice and eye-movements: The eyes have it on the day – not so much on the next 
15:45 – 16:00: Sara van Autreve, MSc (Gent University) – Neurobiological correlates of set-shifting in the restrictive bingeing/purging subtypes in anorexia nervosa
16:00 – 16:15: Laura Enax, MSc (University of Bonn) – Effects of nutrition labels on food choice – neural correlates and drift diffusion model approaches
16:15 - 16:20: Closing remarks
16:20 - …: Drinks

This symposium is financially supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (project Nudge-it).

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