Frequently asked questions
We are not sure yet but so far studies suggest a couple of ways it might work:
- It causes the brain to turn on the brakes whenever you see a trained stop-food like chocolate. This appears to involve increasing the activity in parts of the prefrontal cortex involved in controlling our behaviour and reducing activity in the parts of the brain involved in preparing and executing an action. In other words, the training leads to the suppression of motor responses so people are less inclined to reach out, pick up the food and eat it.
- The training also reduces how much unhealthy foods like chocolate are liked. This sounds weird but several studies show that not responding to pictures of things – including foods, nice scenery or people – reduces how much they are liked. This makes sense when you consider that we tend to go towards and respond to things that we like whereas we avoid or stop to things we don’t like. So by repeatedly not responding to foods like chocolate in the FoodT game we may be able to trick our brain into thinking we don’t like it. Consistent with this, we see that brain areas involved in attention and reward become less responsive to unhealthy foods like chocolate over the course of training.
As often as you like! So far studies have asked people to play it four times a week or over one month. This has led to reduced food intake and weight loss over two weeks –to- one month. It may be that more training produces stronger or longer-lasting effects - we just don’t know yet. That’s one of the reasons why this research is so important.
We recommend that you start off by playing FoodT once a day for one week and then try to complete a ‘top-up’ training session once a week for as long as you like.
Some research suggests that the effects are stronger if you play it when you are feeling hungry or craving food. It may be more effective to play FoodT at a time or in a place where you usually eat the food you are trying to cut down on.
Playing the game in several different places and at different times of day may also help it to work better.
You are trying to teach your brain new associations about the food so the more times you play it, in different situations, the better.
When you play FoodT we recommend that you place your phone on a desk or surface in front of you and try to stay as still as possible when you need to stop in the game. However, when you need to respond, try to go as fast as possible and keep trying to beat your own reaction time score!
This varies between people and the training may not work for everyone. Even if you feel some effects on your craving for certain foods, it may take a while for this to translate into weight loss so try to be patient.
This is a different approach to a traditional diet where you deliberately restrict your intake of certain foods – you will hopefully feel less inclined to eat certain foods but the effects may take a while to build up and then they might be quite subtle so you should continue with the training for one month if you can.
If you have a computer with a keyboard (rather than touch-screen) you can play an online version of the game here: http://foodtraining.exeter.ac.uk/
This version of FoodT is for adults over the age of 18. We are developing versions of the food trainer game for children to play under the supervision of their parents. If you would like to get involved in our research with children and families please contact the researchers vie email: firstname.lastname@example.org or or visit our study page.