New research: Neurocognitive and Hormonal Correlates of Voluntary Weight Loss in Humans

Neurocognitive and Hormonal


Insufficient responses to hypocaloric diets have been attributed to hormonal adaptations that override self-control of food intake. We tested this hypothesis by

measuring circulating energy-balance hormones and brain functional magnetic resonance imaging reactivity to food cues in 24 overweight/obese participant

before, and 1 and 3months after starting a calorie restriction diet. Increased activity and functional connectivity in prefrontal regions at month 1 correlated

with weight loss at months 1 and 3. Weight loss was also correlated with increased plasma ghrelin and decreased leptin, and these changes were associated with

food cue reactivity in reward-related brain regions. However, the reduction in leptin did not counteract weight loss; indeed, it was correlated with further weight

loss at month 3. Activation in prefrontal regions associated with self-control could contribute to successful weight loss and maintenance. This work supports the

role of higher-level cognitive brain function in body-weight regulation in humans.