Emerging evidence suggests that obesity impacts brain physiology at multiple levels. Here we aimed to clarify the relationship between obesity and brain structure using structural MRI (n = 6420) and genetic data (n = 3907) from the ENIGMA Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) working group. Obesity (BMI > 30) was significantly associated with cortical and subcortical abnormalities in both mass-univariate and multivariate pattern recognition analyses independent of MDD diagnosis. The most pronounced effects were found for associations between obesity and lower temporo-frontal cortical thickness (maximum Cohen´s d (left fusiform gyrus) = -0.33). The observed regional distribution and effect size of cortical thickness reductions in obesity revealed considerable similarities with corresponding patterns of lower cortical thickness in previously published studies of neuropsychiatric disorders. A higher polygenic risk score for obesity significantly correlated with lower occipital surface area. In addition, a significant age-by-obesity interaction on cortical thickness emerged driven by lower thickness in older participants. Our findings suggest a neurobiological interaction between obesity and brain structure under physiological and pathological brain conditions.
© 2020. The Author(s).