Quantitative MRI biomarkers measure changes in targeted brain areas in patients with obesity

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2024 Jan 9:dgae014. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgae014. Online ahead of print.


Context: Obesity is accompanied by damages to several tissues, including the brain. Pathological data and animal models have demonstrated an increased inflammatory reaction in hypothalamus and hippocampus.

Objective: We tested whether we could observe such pathological modifications in vivo through quantitative MRI metrics.

Design: This prospective study was conducted between May 2019 and November 2022.

Setting: The study was conducted in the Specialised Center for the Care of Obesity in a French Universitary Hospital.

Patients: Twenty seven patients with obesity and 23 age and gender-paired normal-weight controls were prospectively recruited.

Interventions: All participants were explored on brain MRI. Anthropometric and biological data, eating behavior, anxiety, depression and memory performance were assessed on both groups.

Main outcome measure: The main outcome measure was brain MRI with the following parametric maps: quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM), mean diffusivity (MD), fractional anisotropy (FA), magnetization transfer ratio map (MTR) and T2 relaxivity map (R2).

Results: In the hypothalamus, patients with obesity had higher FA, lower QSM compared to normal-weight controls. In the hippocampus, patients with obesity had higher FA and lower MD. There was no correlation between imaging biomarkers and eating behavior or anxiety.

Conclusion: Our findings are consistent with the presence of neuro-inflammation in brain regions involved in food intake. In vivo brain biomarkers from quantitative MRI appear to provide an incremental information for the assessment of brain damages in patients with obesity.

Keywords: Hypothalamus; Neuroinflammation; Obesity; hippocampus.