Similarities and differences between obesity and addiction are a prominent topic of ongoing research. We conducted an activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis on 87 studies in order to map the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) response to reward in participants with obesity, substance addiction and non-substance (or behavioural) addiction, and to identify commonalities and differences between them. Our study confirms the existence of alterations during reward processing in obesity, non-substance addiction and substance addiction. Specifically, participants with obesity or with addictions differed from controls in several brain regions including prefrontal areas, subcortical structures and sensory areas. Additionally, participants with obesity and substance addictions exhibited similar blood-oxygen-level-dependent fMRI hyperactivity in the amygdala and striatum when processing either general rewarding stimuli or the problematic stimuli (food and drug-related stimuli, respectively). We propose that these similarities may be associated with an enhanced focus on reward--especially with regard to food or drug-related stimuli--in obesity and substance addiction. Ultimately, this enhancement of reward processes may facilitate the presence of compulsive-like behaviour in some individuals or under some specific circumstances. We hope that increasing knowledge about the neurobehavioural correlates of obesity and addictions will lead to practical strategies that target the high prevalence of these central public health challenges.
Keywords: Body mass index (BMI); brain; food addiction; reward.
© 2014 World Obesity.