Strategies to Understand the Weight-Reduced State: Genetics and Brain Imaging

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Apr;29 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S39-S50. doi: 10.1002/oby.23101.


Most individuals with obesity or overweight have difficulty maintaining weight loss. The weight-reduced state induces changes in many physiological processes that appear to drive weight regain. Here, we review the use of cell biology, genetics, and imaging techniques that are being used to begin understanding why weight regain is the normal response to dieting. As with obesity itself, weight regain has both genetic and environmental drivers. Genetic drivers for "thinness" and "obesity" largely overlap, but there is evidence for specific genetic loci that are different for each of these weight states. There is only limited information regarding the genetics of weight regain. Currently, most genetic loci related to weight point to the central nervous system as the organ responsible for determining the weight set point. Neuroimaging tools have proved useful in studying the contribution of the central nervous system to the weight-reduced state in humans. Neuroimaging technologies fall into three broad categories: functional, connectivity, and structural neuroimaging. Connectivity and structural imaging techniques offer unique opportunities for testing mechanistic hypotheses about changes in brain function or tissue structure in the weight-reduced state.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping* / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging / methods
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / genetics
  • Overweight / metabolism
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Thinness / diagnosis
  • Thinness / genetics
  • Thinness / metabolism
  • Thinness / therapy
  • Weight Gain / genetics
  • Weight Gain / physiology
  • Weight Loss* / genetics
  • Weight Loss* / physiology