A neural signature of metabolic syndrome

Hum Brain Mapp. 2019 Aug 15;40(12):3575-3588. doi: 10.1002/hbm.24617. Epub 2019 May 7.


That metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with age-related cognitive decline is well established. The neurobiological changes underlying these cognitive deficits, however, are not well understood. The goal of this study was to determine whether MetS is associated with regional differences in gray-matter volume (GMV) using a cross-sectional, between-group contrast design in a large, ethnically homogenous sample. T1-weighted MRIs were sampled from the genetics of brain structure (GOBS) data archive for 208 Mexican-American participants: 104 participants met or exceeded standard criteria for MetS and 104 participants were age- and sex-matched metabolically healthy controls. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 74 years (37.3 ± 13.2 years, 56.7% female). Images were analyzed in a whole-brain, voxel-wise manner using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Three contrast analyses were performed, a whole sample analysis of all 208 participants, and two post hoc half-sample analyses split by age along the median (35.5 years). Significant associations between MetS and decreased GMV were observed in multiple, spatially discrete brain regions including the posterior cerebellum, brainstem, orbitofrontal cortex, bilateral caudate nuclei, right parahippocampus, right amygdala, right insula, lingual gyrus, and right superior temporal gyrus. Age, as shown in the post hoc analyses, was demonstrated to be a significant covariate. A further functional interpretation of the structures exhibiting lower GMV in MetS reflected a significant involvement in reward perception, emotional valence, and reasoning. Additional studies are needed to characterize the influence of MetS's individual clinical components on brain structure and to explore the bidirectional association between GMV and MetS.

Keywords: GOBS; MetS; Mexican-American; T2DM; Type II diabetes mellitus; VBM; genetics of brain structure; gray matter volume; hypercholesterolemia; hyperglycemia; hypertension; hypertriglyceridemia; insulin resistance; insulin resistance syndrome; metabolic syndrome; neuroimaging; obesity; voxel-based morphometry; waist circumference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging*
  • Gray Matter / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult