Aberrant impulse control circuitry in obesity. Molecular psychiatry Barbosa, D. A., Kuijper, F. M., Duda, J., Wang, A. R., Cartmell, S. C., Saluja, S., Cunningham, T., Shivacharan, R. S., Bhati, M. T., Safer, D. L., Lock, J. D., Malenka, R. C., de Oliveira-Souza, R., Williams, N. R., Grossman, M., Gee, J. C., McNab, J. A., Bohon, C., Halpern, C. H. 2022


The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) to nucleus accumbens (NAc) circuit has been implicated in impulsive reward-seeking. This disinhibition has been implicated in obesity and often manifests as binge eating, which is associated with worse treatment outcomes and comorbidities. It remains unclear whether the vmPFC-NAc circuit is perturbed in impulsive eaters with obesity. Initially, we analyzed publicly available, high-resolution, normative imaging data to localize where vmPFC structural connections converged within the NAc. These structural connections were found to converge ventromedially in the presumed NAc shell subregion. We then analyzed multimodal clinical and imaging data to test the a priori hypothesis that the vmPFC-NAc shell circuit is linked to obesity in a sample of female participants that regularly engaged in impulsive eating (i.e., binge eating). Functionally, vmPFC-NAc shell resting-state connectivity was inversely related to body mass index (BMI) and decreased in the obese state. Structurally, vmPFC-NAc shell structural connectivity and vmPFC thickness were inversely correlated with BMI; obese binge-prone participants exhibited decreased vmPFC-NAc structural connectivity and vmPFC thickness. Finally, to examine a causal link to binge eating, we directly probed this circuit in one binge-prone obese female using NAc deep brain stimulation in a first-in-human trial. Direct stimulation of the NAc shell subregion guided by local behaviorally relevant electrophysiology was associated with a decrease in number of weekly episodes of uncontrolled eating and decreased BMI. This study unraveled vmPFC-NAc shell circuit aberrations in obesity that can be modulated to restore control over eating behavior in obesity.

View details for DOI 10.1038/s41380-022-01640-5

View details for PubMedID 35697760