Seminar presents results and future applications of 3T-MRI in food, health and consumer research

Published on
November 22, 2016

On Tuesday 15 November more than 50 people from academia, clinics and industry gathered in Impulse for an overview of what the 3T-MRI has contributed to research in the last 5 years. The seminar was organised by Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with Alliantie Voeding Gelderse Vallei and Hospital Gelderse Vallei.

The afternoon started with a presentation by Edda Neuteboom, business developer of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Shared Research Facilities. She presented how organisations can make use of the 3T-MRI for their own research. This 3T-MRI is housed in Hospital Gelderse Vallei in Ede, and was invested 5 years ago by WUR, Shared Research Facilities. It is used by the hospital and Wageningen University & Research, as well by other organisations. She also gave an overview of this facility that is unique in the Netherlands. Next to the 3T-MRI also a simulation scanner various equipment for stimulus administration for functional MRI (odour, taste, sound and visual) and physiological monitoring equipment are available.

The next presentation was by Kees de Graaf, professor in Sensory Science and Eating Behaviour at Wageningen University. He showed how MRI experiments have contributed to the research of his team. For the Division of Human Nutrition that has resulted so far in 24 completed and current projects, and 11 publications.

Paul Smeets, senior scientist and MRI specialist at the Division of Human Nutrition, showed the growing number of applications with 3T-MRI that have been developed in this group. One example is a study on the changes in reward value of soft drinks and yoghurt drinks with artificial sweeteners after repeated consumption. The neuroimaging results suggested small declines in reward for low-calorie versions of the soft drinks but not for the yoghurts. However, these effects were not seen in behavioural measures, suggesting that it is very hard to change existing associations between sweet taste and calories. In another study MRI was used to study gastric emptying after drinking low and high caloric drinks differing in thickness. This study showed that the feeling of fullness that people experience is driven by the viscosity of the drink rather than by actual gastric content, a phenomenon termed ‘phantom fullness’. A follow-up study on the relation between gastric volume, appetite and associated brain activity has already sparked media interest.

Three different applications where participants and patients were subjected to odours were presented by Sanne Boesveldt, assistant professor at the Division of Human Nutrition. The first was a study which showed that after a high protein dietary intervention people prefer sweet foods and after a low protein diet they prefer savoury foods (indicated by smells and pictures) as reflected in both brain reward activation and behavioural measures. This suggests that that our diet can modulate our brain’s responses towards our bodily needs, and thereby alter our behaviour. Another, ongoing study is studying shifts in food preferences by patients that have undergone gastric bypass surgery, from high-sweet high-fat to low-energy food. The third application is in the ‘Smell and Taste centre’, that was set-up in 2015 by Hospital Gelderse Vallei in collaboration with Wageningen University. The data acquired in this clinical centre (diagnosis, care and advise for patients with smell or taste complaints) are also used for scientific research in order to advance our understanding of smell disorders.

Assistant professor in Nutrition, Energy Metabolism and Health Marco Mensink showed how the 3T-MRI was used to image intracellular lipids in the liver with 1H-MRS/MRI after a weight loss intervention in the Belly Fat project. The results show that with the two different weight loss diets the amount of abdominal fat decreased, both within the belly (visceral adipose tissue) and close to the skin (subcutaneous adipose tissue). Also the intracellular lipids in the liver were reduced after weight loss. Future studies will also use 3T-MRI to image skeletal muscle in elderly people (who suffer from sarcopenia) and athletes.

Radiologist Bas Maresch from the Radiologic Centre for Elite Sports (Radiologisch Centrum voor Topsport) presented how he and his colleagues use X-Ray, Ultrasound and 3T-MRI for diagnosis of sport specific injuries of elite athletes. 3T-MRI can give them the detail needed to see what is causing pain or other symptoms experienced by athletes.

The last presentation was from the neuromarketing company Alpha.One. Alpha.One uses the 3T-MRI scanner for neuroscientific research to help brands achieve their goals. By the use of fMRI scans, they try to predict consumer behaviour and to understand how choices are made. In this presentation an example was shown of how fMRI (functional neuroimaging) was used to select the most effective commercial.

The presentations were followed by the opportunity to meet the speakers. If you would like to know more about the possibilities to make use of the 3T-MRI facility for your projects, please contact us.