Brain mechanisms of impulsive and compulsive behaviors in obesity

Trevor Steward

Impulsivity and compulsivity are multidimensional constructs that are increasingly considered determinants of obesity. Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have provided insight on how differences in brain response during tasks exploring facets of impulsivity and compulsivity relate to the ingestive behaviors that support the etiology and maintenance of obesity. In this narrative review, we provide an overview of neuroimaging studies exploring impulsivity and compulsivity factors as they relate to weight status. Special focus will be placed on studies examining the impulsivity-related dimensions of attentional bias, delayed gratification and emotion regulation. Discussions of compulsivity within the context of obesity will be restricted to fMRI studies investigating habit formation and response flexibility under shifting contingencies. Further, we will highlight neuroimaging research demonstrating how alterations in neuroendocrine functioning are linked to excessive food intake and may serve as a driver of the impulsive and compulsive behaviors observed in obesity. Research on the associations between brain response with neuroendocrine factors, such as insulin, peptide YY (PYY), leptin, ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), will be reviewed.

Publication information

Title: Neuroendocrinological mechanisms underlying impulsive and compulsive behaviors in obesity: a narrative review of fMRI studies

Authors: Trevor Steward, Romina Miranda-Olivos, Carles Soriano-Mas, Fernando Fernández-Aranda 

Journal: Springer Link

Year: 2019