Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Oct;19(10):1078-84. doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.102.
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 [(18)F]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.