Body weight and the reward system: the volume of the right amygdala may be associated with body mass index in young overweight men

Brain Imaging Behav. 2011 Jun;5(2):149-57. doi: 10.1007/s11682-011-9119-2.


We aimed to investigate the relationship between BMI (body mass index) and the volumes of the structures of the reward system (hippocampus, amygdala, accumbens, caudatum, putamen, and orbitofrontal cortex). The right and left structures were examined separately. Their volumes were assessed using a 3-T MRI scanner and Freesurfer software. Ninety-two healthy subjects were involved (mean BMI: 22.3 ± 3.4 kg/m(2), mean age: 23.2 ± 2.7). We found that the volume of the right amygdala positively correlated with the BMI in men but not in women. Moreover, we could demonstrate this association only in the overweight male sub-population. We suggest that an association between body weight and the morphological variability of the reward system can be demonstrated by MRI. This may be further evidence for a different body-weight regulation in the two sexes. The potential relationship between the volume of the right amygdala and the BMI in heavier individuals requires further studies with larger samples.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / pathology*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Overweight / diagnosis*
  • Reward*
  • Sex Factors*
  • Young Adult