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Selective insulin resistance in homeostatic and cognitive control brain areas in overweight and obese adults.


Impaired brain insulin action has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. To date, the central nervous effects of insulin in obese humans still remain ill defined, and no study thus far has evaluated the specific brain areas affected by insulin resistance.In 25 healthy lean and 23 overweight/obese participants, we performed magnetic resonance imaging to measure cerebral blood flow (CBF) before and 15 and 30 min after application of intranasal insulin or placebo. Additionally, participants explicitly rated pictures of high-caloric savory and sweet food 60 min after the spray for wanting and liking.In response to insulin compared with placebo, we found a significant CBF decrease in the hypothalamus in both lean and overweight/obese participants. The magnitude of this response correlated with visceral adipose tissue independent of other fat compartments. Furthermore, we observed a differential response in the lean compared with the overweight/obese group in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in an insulin-induced CBF reduction in lean participants only. This prefrontal cortex response significantly correlated with peripheral insulin sensitivity and eating behavior measures such as disinhibition and food craving. Behaviorally, we were able to observe a significant reduction for the wanting of sweet foods after insulin application in lean men only.Brain insulin action was selectively impaired in the prefrontal cortex in overweight and obese adults and in the hypothalamus in participants with high visceral adipose tissue, potentially promoting an altered homeostatic set point and reduced inhibitory control contributing to overeating behavior.