September 9th, 2014 in Psychology & Psychiatry /
Dopamine signaling is thought to play a central role in orchestrating the processes of reward, motivation and habit formation. The depicted orange/yellow regions indicate where brain dopamine activity was positively related to obesity. These areas include the dorsolateral striatum which mediates the process of habit formation. The blue regions show where dopamine activity was negatively related to obesity and includes the ventromedial striatum, a brain region that controls reward and motivation. Credit: Juen Guo, Ph.D. and W. Kyle Simmons, Ph.D.People who are obese may be more susceptible to environmental food cues than their lean counterparts due to differences in brain chemistry that make eating more habitual and less rewarding, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in Molecular Psychiatry.
Researchers at the NIH Clinical Center found that, when examining 43 men and women with varying amounts of body fat, obese participants tended to have greater dopamine activity in the habit-forming region of the brain than lean counterparts, and less activity in the region controlling reward. Those differences could potentially make the obese people more drawn to overeat in response to food triggers and simultaneously making food less rewarding to them. A chemical messenger in the brain, dopamine influences reward, motivation and habit formation.
“While we cannot say whether obesity is a cause or an effect of these patterns of dopamine activity, eating based on unconscious habits rather than conscious choices could make it harder to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, especially when appetizing food cues are practically everywhere,” said Kevin D. Hall, Ph.D., lead author and a senior investigator at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of NIH. “This means that triggers such as the smell of popcorn at a movie theater or a commercial for a favorite food may have a stronger pull for an obese person – and a stronger reaction from their brain chemistry – than for a lean person exposed to the same trigger.”
Study participants followed the same eating, sleeping and activity schedule. Tendency to overeat in response to triggers in the environment was determined from a detailed questionnaire. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans evaluated the sites in the brain where dopamine was able to act.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
“These findings point to the complexity of obesity and contribute to our understanding of how people with varying amounts of body fat process information about food,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “Accounting for differences in brain activity and related behaviors has the potential to inform the design of effective weight-loss programs.”
The study did not demonstrate cause and effect among habit formation, reward, dopamine activity, eating behavior and obesity. Future research will examine dopamine activity and eating behavior in people over time as they change their diets, physical activity, and their weight.
Provided by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
“Eating habits, body fat related to differences in brain chemistry.” September 9th, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-09-habits-body-fat-differences-brain.html
Striatal dopamine D2-like receptor correlation patterns with human obesity and opportunistic eating behavior
J Guo, W K Simmons, P Herscovitch, A Martin and K D Hall
The obesity epidemic is believed to be driven by a food environment that promotes consumption of inexpensive, convenient, high-calorie, palatable foods. Individual differences in obesity susceptibility or resistance to weight loss may arise because of alterations in the neurocircuitry supporting food reward and eating habits. In particular, dopamine signaling in the ventromedial striatum is thought to encode food reward and motivation, whereas dopamine in the dorsal and lateral striatum orchestrates the development of eating habits. We measured striatal dopamine D2-like receptor binding potential (D2BP) using positron emission tomography with [18F]fallypride in 43 human subjects with body mass indices (BMI) ranging from 18 to 45 kg m−2. Opportunistic eating behavior and BMI were both positively associated with D2BP in the dorsal and lateral striatum, whereas BMI was negatively associated with D2BP in the ventromedial striatum. These results suggest that obese people have alterations in dopamine neurocircuitry that may increase their susceptibility to opportunistic overeating while at the same time making food intake less rewarding, less goal directed and more habitual. Whether or not the observed neurocircuitry alterations pre-existed or occurred as a result of obesity development, they may perpetuate obesity given the omnipresence of palatable foods and their associated cues.