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Neurosci Lett. 2007 Feb 2;412(3):248-53. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Relationships between plasma leptin concentrations and human brain structure: a voxel-based morphometric study.

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Obesity and Diabetes Clinical Research Section, Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch, NIDDK-NIH, Phoenix, AZ 85016, United States.


We have previously demonstrated that obese people have reduced grey matter (GM) in several brain areas, including regions implicated in the regulation of taste (i.e., inferior frontal operculum and postcentral gyrus), reward (i.e., putamen), and behavioural processing (i.e., middle frontal gyrus), compared with their lean counterparts. It is well established that the brain may serve as a direct target for adiposity signals, one of the most important being leptin. We investigated the relationships between fasting plasma leptin concentrations and brain tissue composition in a group of 32 young adult Caucasians (12M/20F, age 32+/-1 years, body fat 29+/-1%, mean+/-S.E.) with normal glucose tolerance by using voxel-based morphometry of magnetic resonance imaging scans. Fasting plasma leptin concentrations were positively correlated with GM volumes of the left cerebellum and left inferior temporal gyrus and negatively associated with GM volumes of the left inferior frontal operculum, left postcentral gyrus, and right putamen (P<0.001, uncorrected for multiple comparisons) after adjustment for sex, percent body fat, age, fasting plasma insulin concentrations (i.e., the major determinants of plasma leptin), and global GM volume (thus allowing for an assessment of regional effects only). This study showed an independent, negative correlation between fasting plasma leptin concentrations, which are increased in obesity, and the volumes of GM in brain areas where obese people have reduced GM compared to their lean counterparts. These relationships may explain some of the abnormalities in brain morphology recently found to be associated with excess body fatness.

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