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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45403. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045403. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

Neural correlates to food-related behavior in normal-weight and overweight/obese participants.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, United States of America.


Two thirds of US adults are either obese or overweight and this rate is rising. Although the etiology of obesity is not yet fully understood, neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that the central nervous system has a principal role in regulating eating behavior. In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging and survey data were evaluated for correlations between food-related problem behaviors and the neural regions underlying responses to visual food cues before and after eating in normal-weight individuals and overweight/obese individuals. In normal-weight individuals, activity in the left amygdala in response to high-calorie food vs. nonfood object cues was positively correlated with impaired satiety scores during fasting, suggesting that those with impaired satiety scores may have an abnormal anticipatory reward response. In overweight/obese individuals, activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in response to low-calorie food cues was negatively correlated with impaired satiety during fasting, suggesting that individuals scoring lower in satiety impairment were more likely to activate the DLPFC inhibitory system. After eating, activity in both the putamen and the amygdala was positively correlated with impaired satiety scores among obese/overweight participants. While these individuals may volitionally suggest they are full, their functional response to food cues suggests food continues to be salient. These findings suggest brain regions involved in the evaluation of visual food cues may be mediated by satiety-related problems, dependent on calorie content, state of satiation, and body mass index.

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