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J Neurosci. 2011 Mar 23;31(12):4360-6. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6604-10.2011.

Youth at risk for obesity show greater activation of striatal and somatosensory regions to food.

Author information

1
Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Oregon 97403, USA. estice@ori.org

Abstract

Obese humans, compared with normal-weight humans, have less striatal D2 receptors and striatal response to food intake; weaker striatal response to food predicts weight gain for individuals at genetic risk for reduced dopamine (DA) signaling, consistent with the reward-deficit theory of obesity. Yet these may not be initial vulnerability factors, as overeating reduces D2 receptor density, D2 sensitivity, reward sensitivity, and striatal response to food. Obese humans also show greater striatal, amygdalar, orbitofrontal cortex, and somatosensory region response to food images than normal-weight humans do, which predicts weight gain for those not at genetic risk for compromised dopamine signaling, consonant with the reward-surfeit theory of obesity. However, after pairings of palatable food intake and predictive cues, DA signaling increases in response to the cues, implying that eating palatable food contributes to increased responsivity. Using fMRI, we tested whether normal-weight adolescents at high- versus low-risk for obesity showed aberrant activation of reward circuitry in response to receipt and anticipated receipt of palatable food and monetary reward. High-risk youth showed greater activation in the caudate, parietal operculum, and frontal operculum in response to food intake and in the caudate, putamen, insula, thalamus, and orbitofrontal cortex in response to monetary reward. No differences emerged in response to anticipated food or monetary reward. Data indicate that youth at risk for obesity show elevated reward circuitry responsivity in general, coupled with elevated somatosensory region responsivity to food, which may lead to overeating that produces blunted dopamine signaling and elevated responsivity to food cues.

PMID:
21430137
PMCID:
PMC3260083
DOI:
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6604-10.2011
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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