Objective: To investigate the response of the brains of women to the ingestion of a meal.
Research Methods and Procedures: We used measures of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF), a marker of neuronal activity, by positron emission tomography to describe the functional anatomy of satiation, i.e., the response to a liquid meal in the context of extreme hunger (36-hour fast) in 10 lean (BMI ≤ 25 kg/m2; 32 ± 10 years old, 61 ± 7 kg; mean ± SD) and 12 obese (BMI ≥ 35 kg/m2; 30 ± 7 years old, 110 ± 14 kg) women.
Results: In lean and obese women, satiation produced significant increases in rCBF in the vicinity of the prefrontal cortex (p < 0.005). Satiation also produced significant decreases in rCBF in several regions including the thalamus, insular cortex, parahippocampal gyrus, temporal cortex, and cerebellum (in lean and obese women), and hypothalamus, cingulate, nucleus accumbens, and amygdala (in obese women only; all p < 0.005). Compared with lean women, obese women had significantly greater increases in rCBF in the ventral prefrontal cortex and had significantly greater decreases in the paralimbic areas and in areas of the frontal and temporal cortex.
Discussion: This study indicates that satiation elicits differential brain responses in obese and lean women. It also lends additional support to the hypothesis that the paralimbic areas participate in a central orexigenic network modulated by the prefrontal cortex through feedback loops.