Hemispheric asymmetries in resting‐state EEG and fMRI are related to approach and avoidance behaviour, but not to eating behaviour or BMI
Much of our behaviour is driven by two motivational dimensions—approach and avoidance. These have been related to frontal hemispheric asymmetries in clinical and resting‐state EEG studies: Approach was linked to higher activity of the left relative to the right hemisphere, while avoidance was related to the opposite pattern. Increased approach behaviour, specifically towards unhealthy foods, is also observed in obesity and has been linked to asymmetry in the framework of the right‐brain hypothesis of obesity. Here, we aimed to replicate previous EEG findings of hemispheric asymmetries for self‐reported approach/avoidance behaviour and to relate them to eating behaviour. Further, we assessed whether resting fMRI hemispheric asymmetries can be detected and whether they are related to approach/avoidance, eating behaviour and BMI. We analysed three samples: Sample 1 (n = 117) containing EEG and fMRI data from lean participants, and Samples 2 (n = 89) and 3 (n = 152) containing fMRI data from lean, overweight and obese participants. In Sample 1, approach behaviour in women was related to EEG, but not to fMRI hemispheric asymmetries. In Sample 2, approach/avoidance behaviours were related to fMRI hemispheric asymmetries. Finally, hemispheric asymmetries were not related to either BMI or eating behaviour in any of the samples. Our study partly replicates previous EEG findings regarding hemispheric asymmetries and indicates that this relationship could also be captured using fMRI. Our findings suggest that eating behaviour and obesity are likely to be mediated by mechanisms not directly relating to frontal asymmetries in neuronal activation quantified with EEG and fMRI.