Understanding How Food-Reward Signaling Contributes to Obesity

Gene-Jack Wang

Gene-Jack Wang

A recent brain-imaging study using positron emission tomography (PET) indicates that overeating and weight gain contributing to the onset of diabetes could be related to a deficit in reward circuits in the brain. Using PET imaging, researchers have identified a sweet spot in the brain that operates in a disorderly way when simple sugars are introduced to people with insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. For those who have the metabolic syndrome, a sugar drink resulted in a lower-than-normal release of the chemical dopamine in a major pleasure center of the brain. This chemical response may be indicative of a deficient reward system, which could potentially be setting the stage for insulin resistance. This research could revolutionize the medical community's understanding of how food-reward signaling contributes to obesity.

"Insulin resistance is a significant contributor to obesity and diabetes," said lead author of the study, Gene-Jack Wang, of Stony Brook University and Brookhaven Lab. "A better understanding of the cerebral mechanisms underlying abnormal eating behaviors with insulin resistance would help in the development of interventions to counteract the deterioration caused by overeating and subsequent obesity. We suggest that insulin resistance and its association with less dopamine release in a central brain reward region might promote overeating to compensate for this deficit."

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2013-4094  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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