Emotional eating is associated with increased brain responses to food-cues and reduced sensitivity to GLP-1 receptor activation

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Oct;23(10):2075-82. doi: 10.1002/oby.21200. Epub 2015 Aug 31.


Objective: The neural correlates and pathophysiology of emotional eating are insufficiently known. Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a postprandial hormone, plays a role in feeding behavior by signaling satiety to the brain. GLP-1 receptor agonists, used for treatment of type 2 diabetes (T2DM), promote weight loss. This study investigated the association between emotional eating and responses to food-cues in brain areas involved in satiety and reward processing, as well as GLP-1 receptor agonist-induced effects on these brain responses.

Methods: T2DM patients with obesity, normoglycemic individuals with obesity, and lean individuals (n = 48) were studied in a randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. Using functional MRI, we determined the relation between emotional eating and regional brain responses to visual food stimuli and acute effects of intravenous administration of the GLP-1 receptor agonist exenatide on these responses.

Results: Emotional eating scores positively correlated with responses to food-cues in lean subjects in the insula, in normoglycemic subjects with obesity in the insula, and in T2DM patients in the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex, and insula. Emotional eating scores negatively correlated with exenatide-induced reductions in responses to food-cues in normoglycemic subjects with obesity in the amygdala and in T2DM patients in the insula.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that emotional eaters have altered brain responses to food-cues and are less sensitive to the central effects of GLP-1 receptor activation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / genetics
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / genetics
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1