Self-report and behavioral data suggest that impulsivity may contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity. Neuroimaging studies implicate a widespread neural network in inhibitory control and suggest that impulsive individuals show hypoactivity in these regions during tasks requiring response inhibition. Yet, research has not directly tested whether body mass correlates inversely with activation of these regions during response inhibition tasks. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate neural activations during a food-specific go/no-go task in adolescent girls ranging from lean to obese. When required to inhibit prepotent responses to appetizing food, body mass index (BMI) correlated with response inhibition at both the behavioral and neural levels, with more overweight adolescents showing greater behavioral evidence of impulsivity as well as reduced activation of frontal inhibitory regions, including superior frontal gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex, than leaner individuals. As well, activation in food reward regions (e.g., temporal operculum/insula) in response to food images correlated positively with BMI. Results suggest that hypofunctioning of inhibitory control regions and increased response of food reward regions are related to elevated weight.
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