Reinforcer pathology: Common neural substrates for delay discounting and snack purchasing in prediabetics

Harshawardhan U. Deshpande, Alexandra M. Mellis, Jonathan M. Lisinski, Jeffrey S. Stein, Mikhail N. Koffarnus, Rocco Paluch, Ferdinand Schweser, Robert Zivadinov, Stephen M. LaConte, Leonard H. Epstein, Warren K. Bickel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Reinforcer pathology theory stipulates that individuals with both (a) high preference for smaller, immediate over larger, delayed rewards; and (b) high demand for unhealthy commodities are uniquely susceptible to poor health outcomes. Specifically, two behavioral economic tasks (delay discounting, assessing preference for smaller, immediate or larger, delayed rewards; and purchasing, assessing purchases of commodities over changes in price) have been independently associated with conditions such as overweight/obesity and problem substance use. In the present study, we examined possible shared neural regions involved in the processes of delay discounting and demand for snack foods in a prediabetic sample. Fifty-four participants completed both of these tasks. Conjunction between delay discounting and purchasing task results indicates substantial common neural substrates recruited during these two tasks, consistent with interpretations of executive control, interoception, and attention, in the prefrontal cortex, insula, and frontoparietal cortex (superior/middle frontal cortex and superior/inferior parietal lobules), respectively. Collectively, these results suggest possible neural substrates in which the two behavioral risk factors of reinforcer pathology may interact during real-world decision-making in prediabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Cognition
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


  • Delay discounting
  • Impulsivity
  • Prediabetes
  • Purchasing
  • Reinforcer pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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