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Obese children show hyperactivation to food

pictures in brain networks linked to

motivation, reward, and cognitive control
A Study Conducted by:
AS Bruce, LM Holsen, RJ Chambers, LE Martin, WM Brooks,
JR Zarcone, MG Butler and CR Savage
Published in:
International Journal of Obesity (2010)

1. Investigate neural mechanisms of food
2. Examine brain activation differences.

10 Healthy Weight Children
-Five Males and Five Females
Ages: (11-16)

10 Overweight/Obese Children
-Five Males and Five Females
Ages: (10-17)

Materials & Methods

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
-43 Coronal slices obtained
Experimental Paradigm
-Participants view pictures during two scanning
(1) Pre-Meal
(2) Post Meal
-Meal given during typical lunch hour (noon).
**Designed to parallel normal hunger/eating cycles**

Data Analysis 1

(Group x Stimulus Type Interaction)

-Group (Obese/Healthy Weight)

-Stimulus type (food/non-food images)
-Purpose: Find what areas of the brain are activated by what.

Data Analysis 2

( Stimulus Type x Motivational State : [separate groups])

-Stimulus Type (food v non-food; food v control)

-Motivational State (pre-meal/post-meal)
-Purpose: find differences in brain response for separate groups.

Data Analysis 3

(Between Group x Motivational State)

-Stimulus Type (food v control)
-Motivational State (pre-meal/post meal)
-Purpose: targeting difference in brain response when hungry.

Analysis 1: Pre-Meal
Obese group showed
greater activation
to images.

Analysis 1:Post Meal

Obese group still
showed greater
activation to images.

Analysis 2:

Identified areas
decreased brain
activation after
HW: Specific
regions of the
brain responded
to food more
before eating than
after eating.
Obese: reduction
in activation also
observed, but in
fewer regions.

Analysis 3:
Also identify
areas with less
brain activity
after eating.
HW: greater
response in
more areas
before eating
than after
Obese: greater
response in
fewer areas
before eating
than after

Importance: Preliminary Evidence of Neural Mechanisms in
Food Motivation
Adds to evidence
Obese children hyper-responsive to visual food stimuli!
Hyper-responsiveness increases
Food motivation
Food intake
Poor health-related behaviors
Shows there is a distinction

Obese subjects do NOT have reduced activation in prefrontal, limbic, and

reward processing regions.
HW individuals do!

These data provide evidence that obesity,

even among children, is associated with
abnormalities in the networks involved in
motivation and regulating food selection
and intake.

1. Differences due to age are beneath resolution
currently available.
2. Brain anatomy varies because of each childs
3. Regions may have been missed.
4. Small sample size
5. Psychophysiological measurements missing.