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J Gastrointest Surg. 2003 Sep-Oct;7(6):740-9.

Functional neuroimaging of gastric distention.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.


This study aimed to measure brain activation during gastric distention as a way to investigate short-term satiety. We estimated regional cerebral blood flow with positron emission tomography (15O-water) during gastric balloon inflation and deflation in 18 healthy young women. The contrast between inflated minus deflated conditions showed activation in the following four key regions that were identified a priori: dorsal brain stem; left inferior frontal gyrus; bilateral insula; and right subgenual, anterior cingulate cortex. Extant neuroimaging literature provides context for these areas as follows: the brain stem represents vagal projection zones for visceral afferent processing; the inferior frontal gyrus serves as a convergence zone for processing food-related stimuli; and both the insula and subgenual anterior cingulate cortex respond to emotional stimulation. The identification of neural correlates of gastric distention is a key step in the discovery of new treatments for obesity. New therapies could intervene by modifying the perception of gastric distention, an important contributor to meal termination and short-term satiety. This first study of brain activation during nonpainful, proximal gastric distention provides the groundwork for future research to discover novel treatments for obesity.

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