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Prev Med. 2011 Jun;52 Suppl 1:S29-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.01.018. Epub 2011 Feb 1.

Neural correlates of pediatric obesity.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Missouri-Kansas City, USA.



Childhood obesity rates have increased over the last 40 years and have a detrimental impact on public health. While the causes of the obesity epidemic are complex, obesity ultimately arises from chronic imbalances between energy intake and expenditure. An emerging area of research in obesity has focused on the role of the brain in evaluating the rewarding properties of food and making decisions about what and how much to eat.


This article reviews recent scientific literature regarding the brain's role in pediatric food motivation and childhood obesity.


The article will begin by reviewing some of the recent literature discussing challenges associated with neuroimaging in children and the relevant developmental brain changes that occur in childhood and adolescence. The article will then review studies regarding neural mechanisms of food motivation and the ability to delay gratification in children and how these responses differ in obese compared to healthy weight children.


Increasing our understanding about how brain function and behavior may differ in children will inform future research, obesity prevention, and interventions targeting childhood obesity.

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