Illusory Obesity Triggers Body Dissatisfaction Responses in the Insula and Anterior Cingulate Cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2016 Dec;26(12):4450-4460. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw313. Epub 2016 Oct 12.


In today's Western society, concerns regarding body size and negative feelings toward one's body are all too common. However, little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying negative feelings toward the body and how they relate to body perception and eating-disorder pathology. Here, we used multisensory illusions to elicit illusory ownership of obese and slim bodies during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results implicate the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex in the development of negative feelings toward the body through functional interactions with the posterior parietal cortex, which mediates perceived obesity. Moreover, cingulate neural responses were modulated by nonclinical eating-disorder psychopathology and were attenuated in females. These results reveal how perceptual and affective body representations interact in the human brain and may help explain the neurobiological underpinnings of eating-disorder vulnerability in women.

Keywords: body perception; body satisfaction; emotion; fMRI; multisensory body illusions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / physiopathology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions / physiology*
  • Illusions / psychology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Touch Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology