*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
New research reveals that obese adolescents have disrupted connectivity in the complex regions of the brain involved in regulating appetite, emotions, and impulse control, and reward and pleasure in eating.
The study, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), used advanced imagining technology to discover the disrupted white matter integrity in several regions of the brain.
Obesity is an epidemic in America and across the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity has more than quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years.
It is estimated that more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Obesity in adolescence is associated with a number of health risks, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil included 59 obese adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 and 61 healthy control adolescents matched for gender, age, socio-economical classification, and education level.
The study participants underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain to evaluate white matter integrity.
DTI is a type of MRI exam that measures functional anisotropy (FA), the microscopic motion, or anisotropy, of water molecules within and surrounding the brain’s white matter fibers. Low FA values indicate greater disruption within the white matter.
“DTI is a relatively new MRI technique not widely used in clinical diagnosis,” said study author Pamela Bertolazzi, a biomedical scientist and Ph.D. student in the neuroimaging laboratory at the University of Sao Paulo.
The results showed loss of white matter integrity in several brain regions in the obese patients. Compared to the healthy controls, the brains of the obese adolescents showed a decrease in FA values in many areas of the brain including several regions involved in appetite regulation, impulse control, emotions, and reward and pleasure in eating.
“The data reveal a pattern of involvement among brain regions that are important in the control of appetite and emotions,” Bertolazzi said. “There was no region of higher FA in obese patients compared to the control group,” she added.