Aroma effects on food choice task behavior and brain responses to bakery food product cues

de Wijk, Rene A., Smeets, Paul A.M., Polet, Ilse A., Holthuysen, Nancy T.E., Zoon, Jet, Vingerhoeds, Monique H.


Food Quality and Preference 68 p. 304-314


Bread, and especially whole grain bread is an important source of dietary fibers. It was tested with behavioral and fMRI measures whether bread becomes more attractive when it is presented with bread aroma. Twenty-eight healthy normal-weight women were exposed to images of bakery products (brown bread, white bread and cookies) without aroma or with a congruent (bread aroma) or non-congruent (“warm wood”) aroma. In general, product effects were larger than aroma effects. Images of brown bread were preferred over images of white bread as shown by direct comparisons, choice reaction times, as well as liking and wanting scores. Aroma had no effect on liking and wanting, but did affect food choice task behavior, where images of brown bread were preferred more often in the presence of warm wood aroma and images of cookies were preferred more often in the presence of bread aroma. The fMRI data suggest that bread aroma may increase the salience of bakery products compared to no aroma and a non-food aroma. Specifically, bread aroma induced greater activation for cookies in areas related to reward anticipation. The correlations between behavioral measures and brain responses suggest lower attention for and a habitual response to brown bread and higher attention and a more goal-directed response to white bread. In conclusion, aroma can affect choice task behavior for brown and white bread albeit in an incongruent manner. The more habitual response to brown compared with white bread suggested by the neural data underscores that nudging towards brown bread consumption with (bread) aroma will probably not be effective.