Unhealthy eating behaviors often develop in the setting of inadequate inhibitory control, a function broadly ascribed to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Regulation of inhibitory control by the PFC and its anatomical components and their contribution to increasing body mass index (BMI) are poorly understood. To study the role of PFC in the regulation of inhibitory control and body weight, we examined measures of cortical thickness in PFC sub-regions, inhibitory control (color-word interference task (CWIT)), and BMI in 91 healthy volunteers. We tested the predictive effect of PFC sub-regional cortical thickness on BMI and mediation by inhibitory control measured with CWIT. Measures of depression (BDI-II), anxiety (STAI-T) and trauma-related symptoms (TSC-40) were collected; the disinhibition scale of the three-factor eating questionnaire (TFEQ) was used to assess disinhibited eating. We then tested the relationship between BD-II, STAI-T, TSC-40, TFEQ, CWIT, and BMI with correlation analyses. Right superior frontal gyrus cortical thickness significantly predicted BMI (β=-0.91; t=-3.2; p=0.002). Mediation analysis showed a significant indirect effect of cortical thickness on BMI mediated by inhibitory control (95% CI=-6.1, -0.67). BMI was unrelated to BDI-II, STAI-T, TSC-40, or TFEQ scores. We found an inverse relationship between cortical thickness in the right-superior frontal gyrus and BMI, which was fully mediated by inhibitory control neurocognitive performance. Our results suggest possible targets for neuromodulation in obesity (ie superior frontal gyrus) and a quantifiable mediator of their effects (ie inhibitory control).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health