New progress has been made in the study of the underlying causes of obesity

Recently, the international journal of psychiatry and neuroscience Biological Psychiatry published a research paper by Professor Zhang Yi’s team from the CBI Brain Imaging Research Center of the School of Life Science and Technology of Xidian University. Based on the ideal human model of bariatric surgery, this study quantitatively depicts the differences in gray matter volume and functional connection in the rein nucleus region associated with obesity and the changes caused by bariatric surgery by using voxel-based morphological measurement analysis and seed point-based whole-brain resting functional connection analysis method, and reveals the mechanism by which bariatric surgery changes the functional structural connection of the rein nucleus and mediates negative emotion-related eating behavior and long-term effective weight loss in obese patients.

The related research paper was published in Biological Psychiatry.

Obesity has now become a global epidemic that is harmful to health. Professor Zhang Yi’s team from the Brain Imaging Research Center of Xidian University, Professor Ji Gang’s team from Xijing Gastroenterology Hospital of Air Force Military Medical University, and relevant foreign experts have carried out a series of research work. Previous studies on the potential causes of obesity have ignored the impact of long-term negative emotions on the causes and progression of obesity. Current research focuses on the influence of the functional structure connection change of the rein nucleus as an important node of negative emotions on obesity and the intervention regulation mechanism of bariatric surgery. The study used the controlled experimental paradigm of horizontal comparison between obesity and normal weight control group and longitudinal comparison before and after bariatric surgery intervention, and evaluated obesity-related and bariatric surgery-induced abnormalities and changes in gray matter volume and functional connections of reins through functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging data and clinical behavioral data.

The study quantitatively characterized the differences in gray matter volume and functional connectivity in the rein nucleus region associated with obesity and the changes caused by bariatric surgery. (All photos courtesy of Xidian University)

The study found that the volume of gray matter in the obese group was significantly lower than that in the normal weight control group, while the volume of gray matter in the rein nucleus increased significantly one year after bariatric surgery, and reached a level that was not significantly different from that of the normal control group. At the same time, the functional connection between the brain region of obesity-related enhanced reins nucleus and endosensory processing, somatosensory and motor processing was significantly weakened after bariatric surgery. The weakened rein nucleus was significantly enhanced after weight loss surgery, and the improved rein nucleus-related functional connection was significantly associated with reduced body mass index BMI, food addiction, emotional eating, and hunger level after surgery. In addition, mediation analysis found that the increased gray matter volume of the rein nucleus and the weakened functional connection between the rein nucleus and the insular region affected each other and worked together to promote effective weight loss after surgery. Studies have shown that bariatric surgery improves obesity-related functional structural disorders of the rein nucleus, and the improvement mechanism of postoperative negative emotions-related unhealthy feeding behavior may be related to enhanced hunger/satiety-related energy perception, non-hunger aversion sensitivity, and functional rebalance between energy homeostasis and hedonic systems related to feeding regulation, which promotes the improvement of long-term eating behavior and effective weight loss after surgery.

The above research is helpful to improve the theory of the potential causes of obesity, provide neuroimaging theoretical support for the two-way association between obesity and negative emotions, and provide a theoretical basis for the subsequent optimization of weight loss in key populations and the early identification and intervention of negative emotions.

The first authors of the study are Dr. Wang Jia, lecturer Li Guanya and Professor Ji Gang, and the corresponding authors are Zhang Yi and Ji Gang. (Source: Yan Tao, China Science News)

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