Influences of Prolonged Fasting on Behavioral and Brain Patterns

Living reference work entry


Brain functioning requires glucose utilization; however, glucose is a limited resource for the organism, by depending mainly on our food consumption. Prolonged fasting can inevitably reduce the amount of glucose necessary to maintain neuronal activities and therefore, can negatively affect cognitive processes. To date, fasting for esthetical reasons or for unhealthy habits are the common behaviors that lead to low blood glucose levels; however, their effects on brain functioning, such as memory processes, attention levels, and self-control are still poorly investigated. The present work wants to summarize some of the most recent evidences on prolonged fasting effects on brain functioning and attempts to integrate these evidences in a recent model of self-regulation. Additionally, the consequences of low blood glucose levels on neuronal activities (fMRI) are described and discussed from the practical and clinical point of view. Overall, prolonged fasting and subsequent low blood glucose levels seem to decrease self-regulation abilities and negatively affect the attentional system. These results suggest that glucose levels need to be taken in account in fMRI protocols and monitored in circumstances where brain functioning is already compromised, such as in dementia and psychiatric conditions.


Blood glucose Cognitive functions Fasting Functional connectivity Mood induction Resting state Visual stimulation Working memory 

List of Abbreviations


Adenosin triphosphate


Blood glucose levels


Blood-oxygenation level dependent


Cerebral blood flow


Cerebral blood volume


Cerebral glucose consumption


Cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen


Continuous performance test


Default mode network


Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Hemodynamic response function


Independent component analysis


Pregenual anterior cingulate cortex


Posterior cingulate cortex


Positron emission tomography


Primary visual cortex


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, RadboudumcDonders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (DCCN), Radboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.NijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.St. Olavs HospitalTrondheim University Hospital, Orkdal District Psychiatric CentreTrondheimNorway
  4. 4.OrkangerNorway

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