Abnormalities of brain neural circuits related to obesity: A Diffusion Tensor Imaging study

Magn Reson Imaging. 2017 Apr:37:116-121. doi: 10.1016/j.mri.2016.11.018. Epub 2016 Nov 27.


Purpose: Increased Body-Mass-Index (BMI) has been associated with brain atrophy in both gray and white matter structures. However, little is known concerning the integrity of white matter tracts in obesity. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the pattern of changes in white matter microstructure in human adiposity.

Material and methods: The study included 268 participants (52 obese, 96 overweight and 120 normal-weight) that were retrospectively evaluated by Diffusion Tensor Imaging. The fractional anisotropy, axial, radial and mean diffusivity values were compared between the above groups using Tract Based Spatial Statistics.

Results: The analysis revealed that the increased BMI was related with decreased fractional anisotropy in several white matter regions including the anterior and posterior thalamic radiation, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, the inferior and superior longitudinal fasciculus, the corpus callosum (callosal body and forceps minor), the uncinate fasciculus, the internal capsule, the corticospinal tract and the cingulum (cingulate gyrus and hippocampus).

Conclusions: Anisotropic diffusion of anatomic regions governing important brain circuits such as reward seeking inhibition, motivation/drive and learning/conditioning decreases with increasing BMI.

Keywords: Body-Mass-Index; Food addiction; Fractional anisotropy; Reward system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / pathology*
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology*