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Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017 Jun 14;8:127. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2017.00127. eCollection 2017.

Overlapping Neural Endophenotypes in Addiction and Obesity.

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Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Psychology, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.


Impulsivity refers to a tendency to act rapidly without full consideration of consequences. The trait is thought to result from the interaction between high arousal responses to potential rewards and poor self-control. Studies have suggested that impulsivity confers vulnerability to both addiction and obesity. However, results in this area are unclear, perhaps due to the high phenotypic complexity of addictions and obesity. Focusing on impulsivity, the aim of this review is to tackle the putative overlaps between addiction and obesity in four domains: (1) personality research, (2) neurocognitive tasks, (3) brain imaging, and (4) clinical evidence. We suggest that three impulsivity-related domains are particularly relevant for our understanding of similarities between addiction and obesity: lower self-control (high Disinhibition/low Conscientiousness), reward sensitivity (high Extraversion/Positive Emotionality), and negative affect (high Neuroticism/Negative Emotionality). Neurocognitive studies have shown that obesity and addiction are both associated with increased impulsive decision-making and attention bias in response to drug or food cues, respectively. Mirroring this, obesity and different forms of addiction seem to exhibit similar alterations in functional MRI brain activity in response to reward processing and during self-control tasks. Overall, our review provides an integrative approach to understand those facets of obesity that present similarities to addictive behaviors. In addition, we suggest that therapeutic interventions targeting inhibitory control may represent a promising approach for the prevention and/or treatment of obesity.


addiction; brain; impulsivity; obesity; personality and neurocognitive characteristics

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