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Do Brain Activity and Executive Function Predict Weight Loss in a 12-Month Intervention?

Cohen, Jamie (2018) Do Brain Activity and Executive Function Predict Weight Loss in a 12-Month Intervention? Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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With almost 38% of the adult population as obese, weight loss is a public health imperative. We cannot yet predict who will succeed in losing weight through dietary interventions, though reward sensitivity and executive functioning (EF) may influence weight loss. The present study examined whether neural reward network responsivity to visual food cues or EF prior to a dietary intervention predicted weight loss in an overweight and obese sample. It also examined the relationship between brain activity during the visual presentation of food items and measures of EF, and tested whether EF statistically mediated the relationship between neural reward network activation and weight loss.

108 middle-aged, overweight and obese (mean BMI=30.93 + 3.59 kg/m2) adults completed functional neuroimaging and an EF assessment prior to a 12-month weight-loss intervention. Functional neuroimaging included a visual food cuing (VFC) task to examine neural responses to food stimuli that included high-caloric foods, low-caloric foods, and neutral images. The EF assessment included the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and Stroop task as metrics of strategic planning and inhibitory control, respectively. All analyses controlled for sex; analyses involving EF additionally controlled for years of education.

Following the intervention, participants lost approximately 9% of initial body weight (9.06% + 6.86%); baseline weight was not associated with percentage of weight lost. During the visual food cue task, greater activation in the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex and less activation in the right caudate, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex was predictive of more weight loss. Greater activation in the left nucleus accumbens and right caudate was also associated with better performance on the IGT. EF performance was not associated with weight loss.

Reduced neural sensitivity to visual food stimuli in reward regions and increased reactivity in areas associated with EF were predictive of greater success in a dietary weight-loss intervention in overweight and obese adults. Individuals who are less sensitive to rewarding food images and who do not need to inhibit impulsivity may be those who lose more weight. These individuals may be more effective at evaluating the consequences of their dietary choices to aid their successful weight loss.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Cohen, Jamiejac349@pitt.edujac349
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairErickson, Kirkkiericks@pitt.edukiericks
Committee MemberManuck, Stephenmanuch@pitt.edumanuck
Committee MemberGianaros, Petergianaros@pitt.edugianaros
Date: 30 January 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 July 2017
Approval Date: 30 January 2018
Submission Date: 17 November 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 62
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: brain-as-predictor, weight loss, reward sensitivity, executive function
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2018 14:57
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2018 14:57

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