Evidence of fNIRS-Based Prefrontal Cortex Hypoactivity in Obesity and Binge-Eating Disorder

Sarah A. Rösch*, Ricarda Schmidt, Michael Lührs, Ann-Christine Ehlis, Swen Hesse, Anja Hilbert

*Corresponding author for this work

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Obesity (OB) and associated binge-eating disorder (BED) show increased impulsivity and emotional dysregulation. Albeit well-established in neuropsychiatric research, functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) has rarely been used to study OB and BED. Here, we investigated fNIRS-based food-specific brain signalling, its association with impulsivity and emotional dysregulation, and the temporal variability in individuals with OB with and without BED compared to an age- and sex-stratified normal weight (NW) group. Prefrontal cortex (PFC) responses were recorded in individuals with OB (n = 15), OB + BED (n = 13), and NW (n = 12) in a passive viewing and a response inhibition task. Impulsivity and emotional dysregulation were self-reported; anthropometrics were objectively measured. The OB and NW groups were measured twice 7 days apart. Relative to the NW group, the OB and OB + BED groups showed PFC hyporesponsivity across tasks, whereas there were few significant differences between the OB and OB + BED groups. Greater levels of impulsivity were significantly associated with stronger PFC responses, while more emotional dysregulation was significantly associated with lower PFC responses. Temporal differences were found in the left orbitofrontal cortex responses, yet in opposite directions in the OB and NW groups. This study demonstrated diminished fNIRS-based PFC responses across OB phenotypes relative to a NW group. The association between impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, and PFC hypoactivity supports the assumption that BED constitutes a specific OB phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Dec 2020

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