Obesity, Appetite, and the Prefrontal Cortex

Curr Obes Rep. 2017 Dec;6(4):380-388. doi: 10.1007/s13679-017-0289-0.


Purpose of review: Obesity is a chronic illness and its prevalence is growing worldwide and numerous factors play a role in the regulation of food intake. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is involved in high-order executive function, regulation of limbic reward regions, and the inhibition of impulsive behaviors. Understanding the role of the PFC in the control of appetite regulation may contribute to a greater understanding of the etiology of obesity and could improve weight loss outcomes.

Recent findings: Neuroimaging studies have identified lower activation in the left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) in obese compared to lean individuals and others have focused on efforts to improve cognitive control in this area of the brain. The DLPFC is a critical brain area associated with appetitive control, food craving, and executive functioning, indicating a candidate target area for treatment. Further studies are needed to advance our understanding of the relationship between obesity, appetite, and the DLPFC and provide validation for the effectiveness of novel treatments in clinical populations.

Keywords: Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; Executive function; Food intake; Neuroimaging; Neuromodulation; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Depressants / therapeutic use
  • Appetite Regulation* / drug effects
  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Brain Waves* / drug effects
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Eating* / drug effects
  • Executive Function
  • Feeding Behavior* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Obesity / diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
  • Weight Gain


  • Appetite Depressants