Relation between changes in neural responsivity and reductions in desire to eat high-calorie foods following gastric bypass surgery

Neuroscience. 2012 May 3:209:128-35. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.02.030. Epub 2012 Feb 24.


Reductions in reward-related (e.g. striatal) neural activation have been noted following obesity surgery. It has been speculated that these postoperative neural changes may be related to documented postoperative changes in food preferences; however, this relation has not been previously established. In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging and rating scales were used to assess neural responsivity, desire to eat (i.e. wanting), and liking for high- and low-calorie food cues in 14 females one month pre- and one month post-Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery. Pre- to post-RYGB changes in all variables were assessed, and postoperative changes in neural responsivity were regressed on postoperative changes in desire to eat and liking of foods. Results revealed significant postoperative reductions in mesolimbic (e.g. striatal) neural responsivity, desire to eat (wanting), and liking for high- relative to low-calorie food cues. Postoperative reductions in mesolimbic responsivity were associated with postoperative reductions in wanting, but not liking, for high- versus low-calorie foods. Interestingly, reductions in food wanting were also related to reductions in inhibitory (e.g. dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) activation following RYGB. Results are consistent with the hypothesized delineation between wanting and liking, supporting the notion that wanting, but not liking, is processed through the dopaminergic reward pathway. Concurrent reductions in both reward-related and inhibitory activation-predicted reductions in desire to eat might suggest that less dietary inhibition was elicited to resist potential overconsumption as the anticipated reward value of high-calorie foods decreased following RYGB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Gastric Bypass*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Reward
  • Young Adult