Adaptive response of human brain to stress plays a key role in maintaining health. Knowledge about how stress affects neurometabolism may help to understand adaptive stress responses, and distinguish maladaptation in neuropsychiatric disorders. In this study, neurometabolic responses to fasting stress in healthy women were investigated. Fifteen healthy females were examined for mood and cognition and using whole-brain MR spectroscopic imaging before and immediately after a 72-h fasting. Results were compared to 15 age-matched healthy females who did not taken part in fasting (non-fasting). Maps of the distributions in the brain of N-acetylaspartate (NAA), total choline (tCho), total creatine (tCr), glutamine/glutamate (Glx), and myo-Inositol (mI) were derived. Metabolite concentrations of each brain lobe and cerebellum measured before fasting were compared to those of post-fasting and non-fasting by repeated-measures ANOVA. After fasting, mood scores significantly increased. Glx decreased in all nine brain regions, tCho in eight, NAA in four and tCr in one, with Glx having the greatest change and the frontal lobes being the most affected brain region. In conclusion, fasting directly influences neurometabolism, and the adaptive brain response to maintain energy homeostasis under food deprivation in healthy women is associated with metabolite-selective and region-dependent changes of metabolite contents.
Keywords: Brain imaging; MR metabolite; MR spectroscopy; energy metabolism; glutamate; molecular imaging.