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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 May;16(5):945-50. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.33. Epub 2008 Feb 21.

Brain activity in hunger and satiety: an exploratory visually stimulated FMRI study.

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Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.



To explore neuroanatomical sites of eating behavior, we have developed a simple functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) paradigm to image hunger vs. satiety using visual stimulation.


Twelve healthy, lean, nonsmoking male subjects participated in this study. Pairs of food-neutral and food-related pictures were presented in a block design, after a 14-h fast and 1 h after ad libitum ingestion of a mixed meal. Statistically, a general linear model for serially autocorrelated observations with a P level<0.001 was used.


During the hunger condition, significantly enhanced brain activity was found in the left striate and extrastriate cortex, the inferior parietal lobe, and the orbitofrontal cortices. Stimulation with food images was associated with increased activity in both insulae, the left striate and extrastriate cortex, and the anterior midprefrontal cortex. Nonfood images were associated with enhanced activity in the right parietal lobe and the left and right middle temporal gyrus. A significant interaction in activation pattern between the states of hunger and satiety and stimulation with food and nonfood images was found for the left anterior cingulate cortex, the superior occipital sulcus, and in the vicinity of the right amygdala.


These preliminary data from a homogenous healthy male cohort suggest that central nervous system (CNS) activation is not only altered with hunger and satiety but that food and nonfood images have also specific effects on regional brain activity if exposure takes place in different states of satiety. Wider use of our or a similar approach would help to establish a uniform paradigm to map hunger and satiety to be used for further experiments.

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