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Appetite and the brain - white matter integrity to blame?

Read time: 1 mins
Last updated:11th Apr 2019
Published:1st Dec 2017
Source: Pharmawand

A recent study from the University of Sao Paulo used advanced MRI to study the brains of 59 obese adolescents from age 11‒18 with 61 healthy control subjects. The participants underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) which measures the functional anisotropy (FA) of water molecules in the brain, evaluating the integrity of white matter; the lower the FA values, the lower the integrity. Lower FA values were found in the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, cingulate gyrus, fornix, insula, putamen, orbital gyrus and bilateral hypothalamus. Many of these brain regions are involved in appetite regulation, impulse control, emotions, reward and pleasure.

The data suggest that these brain regions form a web of interconnectivity that controls appetite and emotion, and that reduced FA values in obese patients contributes to excessive food consumption. It was also noted that there were no brain regions in the obese group that had higher FA values than the control.

The researchers hope that DTI could be used to help identify the alterations that occur in the obese brain, supporting prevention methods to reduce the burden of obesity on society.

Reduction of functional anisotropy (FA) in obese patients compared to control group (clusters in red), and FA skeleton (green), superimposed on the mean of FA images in the sample. Source: Radiological Society of North America.

The data suggest that these brain regions form a web of interconnectivity that controls appetite and emotion, and that reduced FA values in obese patients contributes to excessive food consumption. It was also noted that there were no brain regions in the obese group that had higher FA values than the control.

The researchers hope that DTI could be used to help identify the alterations that occur in the obese brain, supporting prevention methods to reduce the burden of obesity on society.

Reduction of functional anisotropy (FA) in obese patients compared to control group (clusters in red), and FA skeleton (green), superimposed on the mean of FA images in the sample. Source: Radiological Society of North America.

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