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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Aug;18(8):1572-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.475. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

Selective alterations within executive functions in adolescents with excess weight.

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Department of Clinical Psychology, Universidad de Granada, Granada, Spain.


Increasing evidence underscores overlapping neurobiological pathways to addiction and obesity. In both conditions, reward processing of preferred stimuli is enhanced, whereas the executive control system that would normally regulate reward-driven responses is altered. This abnormal interaction can be greater in adolescence, a period characterized by relative immaturity of executive control systems coupled with the relative maturity of reward processing systems. The aim of this study is to explore neuropsychological performance of adolescents with excess weight (n = 27, BMI range 24-51 kg/m(2)) vs. normal-weight adolescents (n = 34, BMI range 17-24 kg/m(2)) on a comprehensive battery of executive functioning tests, including measures of working memory (letter-number sequencing), reasoning (similarities), planning (zoo map), response inhibition (five-digit test (FDT)-interference and Stroop), flexibility (FDT-switching and trail-making test (TMT)), self-regulation (revised-strategy application test (R-SAT)), and decision-making (Iowa gambling task (IGT)). We also aimed to explore personality traits of impulsivity and sensitivity to reward. Independent sample t- and Z Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests showed significant differences between groups on indexes of inhibition, flexibility, and decision-making (excess-weight participants performed poorer than controls), but not on tests of working memory, planning, and reasoning, nor on personality measures. Moreover, regression models showed a significant association between BMI and flexibility performance. These results are indicative of selective alterations of particular components of executive functions in overweight adolescents.

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