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Increased brain response to appetitive tastes in the insula and amygdala in obese compared with healthy weight children when sated



There is evidence of altered neural taste response in female adolescents who are obese (OB), and in adolescents who are at risk for obesity. To further understand risk factors for the development of overeating and obesity, we investigated response to tastes of sucrose and water in 23 OB and healthy weight (HW) children.

Methods and design

Thirteen HW and 10 OB 8-12-year-old children underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while tasting sucrose and water. Additionally, children completed an eating in the absence of hunger paradigm and a sucrose-liking task.


A region of interest analysis revealed an elevated BOLD response to taste (sucrose and water) within the bilateral insula and amygdala in OB children relative to HW children. Whole-brain analyses revealed a group by condition interaction within the paracingulate, medial frontal, middle frontal gyri and right amygdala: post hoc analyses suggested an increased response to sucrose for OB relative to HW children, whereas HW children responded more strongly to water relative to sucrose. In addition, OB children, relative to HW, tended to recruit the right putamen as well as medial and lateral frontal and temporal regions bilaterally.


This study showed increased reactivity in the amygdala and insula in the OB compared with HW children, but no functional differentiation in the striatum, despite differences in the striatum previously seen in older samples. These findings support the concept of the association between increased neural processing of food reward in the development of obesity, and raise the possibility that emotional and interoceptive sensitivity could be an early vulnerability in obesity.

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