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Brain functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging of obesity and weight loss interventions.

Molecular Psychiatry 2023 March 15
Obesity has tripled over the past 40 years to become a major public health issue, as it is linked with increased mortality and elevated risk for various physical and neuropsychiatric illnesses. Accumulating evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that obesity negatively affects brain function and structure, especially within fronto-mesolimbic circuitry. Obese individuals show abnormal neural responses to food cues, taste and smell, resting-state activity and functional connectivity, and cognitive tasks including decision-making, inhibitory-control, learning/memory, and attention. In addition, obesity is associated with altered cortical morphometry, a lowered gray/white matter volume, and impaired white matter integrity. Various interventions and treatments including bariatric surgery, the most effective treatment for obesity in clinical practice, as well as dietary, exercise, pharmacological, and neuromodulation interventions such as transcranial direct current stimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation and neurofeedback have been employed and achieved promising outcomes. These interventions and treatments appear to normalize hyper- and hypoactivations of brain regions involved with reward processing, food-intake control, and cognitive function, and also promote recovery of brain structural abnormalities. This paper provides a comprehensive literature review of the recent neuroimaging advances on the underlying neural mechanisms of both obesity and interventions, in the hope of guiding development of novel and effective treatments.

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