Structural integrity between executive control and reward regions of the brain predicts body fat percentage in chronic dieters

Cogn Neurosci. 2017 Jul;8(3):162-166. doi: 10.1080/17588928.2016.1235556. Epub 2016 Oct 11.


Failure to maintain a healthy body weight may reflect a long-term imbalance between the executive control and reward systems of the brain. The current study examined whether the anatomical connectivity between these two systems predicted individual variability in achieving a healthy body weight, particularly in chronic dieters. Thirty-six female chronic dieters completed a food-cue reactivity task in the scanner. Two regions-of-interest (ROIs) were defined from the reactivity task: the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), which engages cognitive control and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which represents reward value. A white matter tract connecting these two ROIs was identified across participants using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and probabilistic tractography. Results showed a negative relationship between body fat percentage and white matter integrity within the identified tract. This suggests that reduced structural integrity between the OFC and IFG may be related to self-regulatory problems for those who chronically diet to control body weight.

Keywords: Self-control; connectivity; diffusion tensor imaging; functional magnetic resonance imaging; individual differences; obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cues
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward*
  • Self-Control*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Young Adult