Brain mechanisms of risk-taking behaviour in obesity after a loss

Trevor Steward

Altered activity in decision-making neural circuitry may underlie the maladaptive food choices found in obesity. Here, we aimed to identify the brain regions purportedly underpinning risk-taking behavior in individuals with obesity. Twenty-three adult women with obesity and twenty-three healthy weight controls completed the Risky Gains Task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This task allows participants to choose between a safe option for a small, guaranteed monetary reward and risky options with larger rewards. fMRI analyses comparing losing trials to winning trials found that participants with obesity presented decreased activity in the left anterior insula in comparison to controls (p < 0.05, AlphaSim corrected). Moreover, left insula activation during losses vs. wins was negatively correlated with UPPS-P questionnaire sensation seeking scores. During safe vs. risky trials following a loss, the control group exhibited increased activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) (p < 0.05, AlphaSim corrected) in comparison to the OB group. Moreover, vmPFC response in the obesity group during post-loss trials was negatively correlated with risky choices on the task overall. As a whole, our findings support that diminished tuning of the insula towards interoceptive signals may lead to a lack of input to the vmPFC when weighing the costs and benefits of risky choices.

Publication information

Title: What Difference Does it Make? Risk-Taking Behavior in Obesity after a Loss is Associated with Decreased Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex Activity

Authors: Trevor Steward, Asier Juaneda-Seguí, Gemma Mestre-Bach, Ignacio Martínez-Zalacaín, Nuria Vilarrasa, Susana Jiménez-Murcia, Jose A Fernández-Formoso, Misericordia Veciana de Las Heras, Nuria Custal, Nuria Virgili, Rafael Lopez-Urdiales, Amador García-Ruiz-de-Gordejuela, José M Menchón, Carles Soriano-Mas, Fernando Fernandez-Aranda

Journal: Pubmed

Year: 2019