Effect of Insulin Sensitivity on Corticolimbic Responses to Food Picture in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome


  • Disclosure: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

  • Funding agencies: This work was supported by a grant from the Physicians Services Incorporated (DAVV and SP) and the Botterell Foundation (DAVV).



Insulin is one of several molecules that transmit information about energy balance to the brain. It has been hypothesized that insulin resistance fosters non-homeostatic eating. The objective of the current study was to characterize corticolimbic brain responses to appetitive stimuli in subjects with insulin sensitivities ranging from resistant to normal.

Design and Methods

Sixteen women diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while viewing pictures of high calorie (HC) foods, low calorie (LC) foods, and control (C) pictures.


A region of interest analysis of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal revealed widespread activation within corticolimbic regions in response to food pictures. Activated regions included the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) , insula, nucleus accumbens (NAc), pallidum, ventral tegmental area (VTA), putamen, amygdala, caudate, substantia nigra, hippocampus, pulvinar, and midbrain. Activation of the anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and midbrain by HC food pictures (HC — C) and activation of the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), pallidum, substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area (VTA), pulvinar, and midbrain by LC food pictures (LC — C) was negatively correlated with insulin sensitivity. In contrast, activation of the OFC, DLPFC, insula, hypothalamus, pallidum, substantia nigra, VTA, pulvinar, and midbrain by the HC — LC contrast was positively correlated with insulin sensitivity, whereas activation of the caudate was negatively correlated.


The association between insulin sensitivity and corticolimbic responses to food pictures may reflect abnormal brain responses to insulin feedback that contribute to the development and or perpetuation of obesity in PCOS.