A new study from UCLA researchers finds sex-specific brain signals that appear to confirm that different drivers lead men and women to develop obesity.
“We found differences in several of the brain’s networks associated with early life adversity, mental health quality, and the way sensory stimulation is experienced. The resulting brain signatures, based on multimodal MRI imaging, may help us more precisely tailor obesity interventions based on an individual’s sex,” said Arpana Gupta, senior author of the study .
This study supports and corroborates many findings from that and earlier studies of Gupta and provides MRI evidence of differences in brain structure, function, and connectivity that may help researchers better understand obesity-related drives and behaviors.
“In designing treatment plans for females with high BMI, it may be important to focus on emotional regulation techniques and vulnerability factors,” Gupta said.
In the study, each participant underwent three different brain MRIs to assess structure, function and connectivity. Data sets from the three scans and from clinical information were analyzed using an analytical tool that seeks to identify a limited number of variables from multiple data sets to predict an outcome.
The results show specific network connectivity changes associated with high BMI, regardless of sex. In females, the study identified brain regions and networks with alterations associated with early life trauma. These appear consistent with previous observations that females with obesity, compared to males, may have greater anxiety, lower resilience and difficulty integrating emotions with action-directed goal planning. Females also may be more susceptible to the sight, smell and taste of ultra-processed foods.
“Although causality is unknown, the strong associations between clinical markers, such as anxiety, depression, obesity and neural signatures suggest the importance of the bidirectional mechanistic connection of the gut-brain axis,” the authors said.
Ravi R Bhatt, Svetoslav Todorov, Riya Sood, Soumya Ravichandran, Lisa A Kilpatrick, Newton Peng, Cathy Liu, Priten P Vora, Neda Jahanshad, Arpana Gupta. Integrated multimodal brain signatures predict sex-specific obesity status. Brain Communications, 2023; DOI: 10.1093/braincomms/fcad098
University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences. “Men and women have different obesity drivers, pointing to the need for tailored interventions: Sex-specific brain signatures driving obesity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 April 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/04/230406094231.htm>.
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