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Neuroimage. 2014 Dec;103:192-201. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.09.030. Epub 2014 Sep 26.

Adiposity is associated with structural properties of the adolescent brain.

Author information

1
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto, Canada; Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada.
2
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto, Canada.
3
Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
4
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada.
5
Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Canada.
6
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada; ÉCOBES, Recherche et transfert, Cégep de Jonquière, Jonquière, Canada.
7
Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Electronic address: zdenka.pausova@sickkids.ca.
8
Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, Toronto, Canada; Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada. Electronic address: tpaus@research.baycrest.org.

Abstract

Obesity, a major risk factor for cardiometabolic disease, is associated with variations in a number of structural properties in the adult brain, as assessed with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In this study, we investigated the cross-sectional relationship between visceral fat (VF), total body fat (TBF) and three MRI parameters in the brains of typically developing adolescents: (i) T1-weighted (T1W) signal intensity; (ii) T1W signal contrast between white matter (WM) and gray matter (GM); and (iii) magnetization transfer ratio (MTR). In a community-based sample of 970 adolescents (12-18 years old, 466 males), VF was quantified using MRI, and total body fat was measured using a multifrequency bioimpedance. T1W images of the brain were used to determine signal intensity in lobar GM and WM, as well as WM:GM signal contrast. A magnetization transfer (MT) sequence of MT(ON) and MT(OFF) was used to obtain MTR in GM and WM. We found that both larger volumes of VF and more TBF were independently associated with higher signal intensity in WM and higher WM:GM signal contrast, as well as higher MTR in both GM and WM. These relationships were independent of a number of potential confounders, including age, sex, puberty stage, household income and height. Our results suggest that both visceral fat and fat deposited elsewhere in the body are associated independently with structural properties of the adolescent brain. We speculate that these relationships suggest the presence of adiposity-related variations in phospholipid composition of brain lipids.

KEYWORDS:

Fat mass; Intra-abdominal fat; MRI signal contrast; MRI signal intensity; MTR; Obesity; Total body fat; Visceral fat

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