Probing behavioral responses to food: Development of a food-specific go/no-go task
The ability to exert self-control in the face of appetitive, alluring cues is a critical component of healthy development. The development of behavioral measures that use disease-relevant stimuli can greatly improve our understanding of cue-specific impairments in self-control. To produce such a tool relevant to the study of eating and weight disorders, we modified the traditional go/no-go task to include food and non-food targets. To confirm that performance on this new task was consistent with other go/no-go tasks, it was given to 147 healthy, normal weight volunteers between the ages of 5 and 30. High-resolution photos of food or toys were used as the target and nontarget stimuli. Consistent with expectations, overall improvements in accuracy were seen from childhood to adulthood. Participants responded more quickly and made more commission errors to food cues compared to nonfood cues (F(1,140)=21.76, P<0.001), although no behavioral differences were seen between low- and high-calorie food cues for this non-obese, healthy developmental sample. This novel food-specific go/no-go task may be used to track the development of self-control in the context of food cues and to evaluate deviations or deficits in the development of this ability in individuals at risk for eating problem behaviors and disorders.