Obesity is associated with altered brain function

February 9, 2012
Glucose metabolism of the caudate nucleus in the midbrain (A) was significantly higher in obese versus lean individuals (B).

In most western countries the annual increase in the prevalence and the severity of obesity is currently substantial. Although obesity typically results simply from excessive energy intake, it is currently unclear why some people are prone to overeating and gaining weight.

Because the central nervous system is intimately involved in processing of hunger signals and controlling food intake, it is possible that the cause of weight gain and obesity might be in the brain.

Researchers at the University of Turku and Aalto University have now found new evidence for the role of the brain in obesity. The researchers measured the functioning involved in with multiple brain imaging methods.

The results revealed that in obese versus lean individuals, brain glucose metabolism was significantly higher in the brain's striatal regions, which are involved in processing of rewards. Moreover, obese individual's reward system responded more vigorously to food pictures, whereas responses in the frontal cortical regions involved in cognitive control were dampened.

"The results suggest that obese individuals' brains might constantly generate signals that promote eating even when the body would not require additional energy uptake," says Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the University of Turku.

"The results highlight the role of the brain in obesity and weight gaining. The results have major implications on the current models of obesity, but also on development of pharmacological and psychological treatments of obesity," Nummenmaa says.

The participants were morbidly obese individuals and lean, healthy controls. Their brain was measured with positron during conditions in which the body was satiated in terms of insulin signalling. to pictures of foods were measured with .

The research is funded by the Academy of Finland, Turku University Hospital, University of Turku, Åbo Akademi University and Aalto University.

The results were published on January 27th, 2012 in scientific journal PLoS ONE.

Explore further: Obesity reduces the size of your brain

Related Stories

Obesity reduces the size of your brain

February 1, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- New research from Uppsala University shows that a specific brain region linked to appetite regulation is reduced in elderly people who are obese. Poor eating habits over a lifetime may therefore weaken ...

Recommended for you

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

New breast cell types discovered by multidisciplinary research team

November 20, 2017
A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.