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Neuroimage. 2006 Jul 15;31(4):1419-25. Epub 2006 Mar 20.

Brain abnormalities in human obesity: a voxel-based morphometric study.

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Obesity and Diabetes Clinical Research Section, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Phoenix, AZ 85016, USA.


Obesity is accompanied by damage to several tissues. Overweight is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Whether structural abnormalities associated with excess body fat may also occur in the brain is unknown. We sought to determine to what extent excess body fat is associated with regional alterations in brain structure using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a whole-brain unbiased technique based upon high-definition 3D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans normalized into a common standard space and allowing for an objective assessment of neuroanatomical differences throughout the brain. We studied 24 obese (11 male, 13 female; age: 32 +/- 8 years; body mass index [BMI]: 39.4 +/- 4.7 kg/m2) and 36 lean (25 male, 11 female; mean age: 33 +/- 9 years; BMI: 22.7 +/- 2.2 kg/m2) non-diabetic Caucasians. In comparison with the group of lean subjects, the group of obese individuals had significantly lower gray matter density in the post-central gyrus, frontal operculum, putamen, and middle frontal gyrus (P < 0.01 after adjustment for sex, age, handedness, global tissue density, and multiple comparisons). BMI was negatively associated with GM density of the left post-central gyrus in obese but not lean subjects. This study identified structural brain differences in human obesity in several brain areas previously involved in the regulation of taste, reward, and behavioral control. These alterations may either precede obesity, representing a neural marker of increased propensity to gaining weight, or occur as a consequence of obesity, indicating that also the brain is affected by increased adiposity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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