Food for thought: hedonic experience beyond homeostasis in the human brain.
Food intake is an essential human activity regulated by homeostatic and hedonic systems in the brain which has mostly been ignored by the cognitive neurosciences. Yet, the study of food intake integrates fundamental cognitive and emotional processes in the human brain, and can in particular provide evidence on the neural correlates of the hedonic experience central to guiding behaviour. Neuroimaging experiments provide a novel basis for the further exploration of the brain systems involved in the conscious experience of pleasure and reward, and thus provide a unique method for studying the hedonic quality of human experience. Recent neuroimaging experiments have identified some of the regions involved in the cortical networks mediating hedonic experience in the human brain, with the evidence suggesting that the orbitofrontal cortex is the perhaps strongest candidate for linking food and other kinds of reward to hedonic experience. Based on the reviewed literature, a model is proposed to account for the roles of the different parts of the orbitofrontal cortex in this hedonic network.