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RSNA: Brain Changes Observed on MRI in Obese Teens

Pattern of damage seen in regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions, cognitive functions

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The brains of obese teens show damage, possibly related to inflammation, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from Dec. 1 to 6 in Chicago.

Pamela Bertolazzi, Ph.D., from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the influence of obesity on changes in brain connectivity. Images were compared between 59 obese teens (aged 12 to 16 years) and 61 lean adolescents. Additionally, blood tests were performed to evaluate inflammatory marker ratios and elucidate the systemic inflammation associated with obesity.

The researchers observed a reduction of the fractonal anisotropy (FA) values in obese patients versus the control group in the body of the corpus callosum, splenium of the corpus callosum, and medium orbital gyrus. There was no region with increased FA in obese patients. Correlation maps revealed a negative association with tumor necrosis factor-β and FA values in the splenium of the corpus callosum. Interleukin 6 was negatively correlated with FA values in the medial orbital gyrus and the body of the corpus callosum. There were no positive correlations noted between inflammatory markers and FA values.

“Brain changes found in obese adolescents related to important regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions, and cognitive functions,” Bertolazzi said in a statement. “Our maps showed a positive correlation between brain changes and hormones such as leptin and insulin. Furthermore, we found a positive association with inflammatory markers, which leads us to believe in a process of neuroinflammation besides insulin and leptin resistance.”

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