INTRODUCTION: Many factors contribute to the pathogenesis of
morbid obesity, and the central nervous system - as one of
those - also has an important role. Numerous studies focus on
the central regulation of eating and metabolism, since
associated problems like obesity, anorexia, diabetes or
metabolic syndrome put an increasing burden on the health system
of modern societies. Neither the pathophysiologic changes, nor
the normal regulation of these systems are known adequately.
Functional MR (fMRI) imaging, which has certainly gained
popularity recently, aims to better understand these mechanisms.
In this series we studied the brain fMRI activity changes of
normal and obese persons, triggered by gustatory stimulation.
METHODS: 10 obese and 10 normal weight healthy volunteers took
part in the study, with comparable age and sex distribution.
Gustatory stimulation was performed by 0.1 M sucrose (pleasant),
0.5 mM quinine HCl (unpleasant) and complex vanilla flavored
(Nutridrink) solutions, which were administered through 0.5 mm
PVC tubes, in 5-5 ml portions. For rinsing distilled water with
neutral flavor was used. Imaging was performed in a 3T MRI,
applying standard EPI sequences. Post processing of data was
accomplished by FSL software package. RESULTS: Brain activation
for gustatory stimuli was characteristically different between
the two groups. There were high intensity activations in more
cortical and subcortical regions of the obese volunteers
compared to the normal ones. CONCLUSIONS: Our current fMRI
investigations revealed different activations of numerous brain
regions of normal and obese individuals, triggered by pleasant
and unpleasant gustatory stimulation. Based on these results
this method can help to recognize the role of the central
nervous system in obesity, and may contribute to develop new
therapies for weight loss.