Insulin sensitivity and brain reward activation in overweight Hispanic girls: a pilot study

Pediatr Obes. 2015 Feb;10(1):30-6. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2013.00210.x. Epub 2013 Dec 20.


Background: Insulin resistance is a link between obesity and the associated disease risk. In addition to its role as an energy regulatory signal to the hypothalamus, insulin also modulates food reward.

Objective: To examine the relationship of insulin sensitivity (SI) and fasting insulin with cerebral activation in response to food and non-food cues in children.

Methods: Twelve overweight Hispanic girls (age: 8-11) participated in two study visits, a frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test and a functional neuroimaging session (GE HDxt 3.0Tesla) with visual stimulation tasks. Blocks of images (high calorie [HC], low calorie [LC] and non-food [NF]) were presented in randomized order.

Results: Comparing HC with NF, SI was inversely associated with activation in the anterior cingulate (r(2) = 0.65; P < 0.05), the insula (r(2) = 0.69; P < 0.05), the orbitofrontal cortex (r(2) = 0.74; P < 0.05), and the frontal and rolandic operculum (r(2) = 0.76; P < 0.001). Associations remained significant after adjustment for body mass index. Association of fasting insulin and cerebral activation disappeared after adjustment for waist circumference.

Conclusion: In addition to weight loss, insulin sensitivity may pose an important target to regulate neural responses to food cues in the prevention of excessive weight gain.

Keywords: Brain reward; childhood obesity; functional imaging; insulin sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Fasting
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reward
  • Signal Transduction