Subliminal intragastric fatty acid infusion attenuates subjective and brain responses to negative emotion induction. However, the underlying gut-brain signaling mechanisms remain unclear, and it is unknown whether such effect equally applies to positive emotion.
We aimed to investigate the interaction between fatty acid-induced gut-brain signaling and subjective responses to positive emotion, and the potential mediational role of gastrointestinal (GI) hormones.
Twelve fasting healthy women underwent intragastric infusion of 2.5 g lauric acid or saline, after which either positive or neutral emotion was induced for 30 min, in 4 separate visits. Appetite-related sensations, subjective emotional state, and GI hormones were measured at baseline and every 10 min after infusion. Heart rate variability was measured at baseline and at t = 20-30 min to quantify vagal tone (root mean square of successive differences, RMSSD), and sympathovagal balance (low frequency to high frequency ratio, LF/HF).
Fatty acid infusion did not influence appetite-related sensations (as expected), nor emotional state ratings (contrary to expectations). As anticipated, fatty acid stimulated release of CCK at t = 20-40 min (p < 0.001), and GLP1 at t = 30-40 min (p < 0.001), but not PYY. Interestingly, positive emotion induction suppressed plasma octanoylated ghrelin at t = 20-40 min (p = 0.020). Further, both positive emotion and fatty acid attenuated RMSSD (p = 0.012 & 0.0073, respectively). Positive emotion attenuated LF/HF after fatty acid (p = 0.0006), but raised LF/HF after saline (p = 0.004).
Subliminal fatty acid did not influence subjective responses to positive emotion induction. However, positive emotion induction suppressed octanoylated ghrelin release. Moreover, both positive emotion and subliminal fatty acid decreased cardiac vagal tone. Further, the fatty acid reversed the effect of positive emotion on sympathovagal balance.