Late-life obesity is associated with smaller global and regional gray matter volumes: a voxel-based morphometric study

Samantha, J. Brooks, C. Benedict, J. Burgos, M.J. Kempton, J. Kullberg, R. Nordenskjöld, L. Kilander, R. Nylander, E.M. Larsson, L. Johansson, H. Ahlström, L. Lind, H.B. Schiöth

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97 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Obesity adversely affects frontal lobe brain structure and function. Here we sought to show that people who are obese versus those who are of normal weight over a 5-year period have differential global and regional brain volumes.

DESIGN: Using voxel-based morphometry, contrasts were done between those who were recorded as being either obese or of normal weight over two time points in the 5 years prior to the brain scan. In a post-hoc preliminary analysis, we compared scores for obese and normal weight people who completed the trail-making task.

SUBJECTS: A total of 292 subjects were examined following exclusions (for example, owing to dementia, stroke and cortical infarcts) from the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors cohort with a body mass index of normal weight (<25 kg m−2) or obese (30 kg m−2).

RESULTS: People who were obese had significantly smaller total brain volumes and specifically, significantly reduced total gray matter (GM) volume (GMV) (with no difference in white matter or cerebrospinal fluid). Initial exploratory whole brain uncorrected analysis revealed that people who were obese had significantly smaller GMV in the bilateral supplementary motor area, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), left inferior frontal gyrus and left postcentral gyrus. Secondary more stringent corrected analyses revealed a surviving cluster of GMV difference in the left DLPFC. Finally, post-hoc contrasts of scores on the trail-making task, which is linked to DLPFC function, revealed that obese people were significantly slower than those of normal weight.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that in comparison with normal weight, people who are obese have smaller GMV, particularly in the left DLPFC. Our results may provide evidence for a potential working memory mechanism for the cognitive suppression of appetite that may lower the risk of developing obesity in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2012


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