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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Feb;36(3):627-37. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.194. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

Body mass index, metabolic factors, and striatal activation during stressful and neutral-relaxing states: an FMRI study.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06519, USA.


Stress is associated with alterations in neural motivational-reward pathways in the ventral striatum (VS), hormonal/metabolic changes, and weight increases. The relationship between these different factors is not well understood. We hypothesized that body mass index (BMI) status and hormonal/metabolic factors would be associated with VS activation. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare brain responses of overweight and obese (OW/OB: BMI ≥ 25 kg/m(2): N=27) individuals with normal weight (NW: BMI<18.5-24.9 kg/m(2): N=21) individuals during exposure to personalized stress, alcohol cue, and neutral-relaxing situations using a validated, autobiographical, script-driven, guided-imagery paradigm. Metabolic factors, including fasting plasma glucose (FPG), insulin, and leptin, were examined for their association with VS activation. Consistent with previous studies, stress and alcohol cue exposure each increased activity in cortico-limbic regions. Compared with NW individuals, OW/OB individuals showed greater VS activation in the neutral-relaxing and stress conditions. FPG was correlated with VS activation. Significant associations between VS activation and metabolic factors during stress and relaxation suggest the involvement of metabolic factors in striatal dysfunction in OW/OB individuals. This relationship may contribute to non-homeostatic feeding in obesity.

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