Independent functional connectivity networks underpin food and monetary reward sensitivity in excess weight

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Abstract

Overvaluation of palatable food is a primary driver of obesity, and is associated with brain regions of the reward system. However, it remains unclear if this network is specialized in food reward, or generally involved in reward processing. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to characterize functional connectivity during processing of food and monetary rewards. Thirty-nine adults with excess weight and 37 adults with normal weight performed the Willingness to Pay for Food task and the Monetary Incentive Delay task in the fMRI scanner. A data-driven graph approach was applied to compare whole-brain, task-related functional connectivity between groups. Excess weight was associated with decreased functional connectivity during the processing of food rewards in a network involving primarily frontal and striatal areas, and increased functional connectivity during the processing of monetary rewards in a network involving principally frontal and parietal areas. These two networks were topologically and anatomically distinct, and were independently associated with BMI. The processing of food and monetary rewards involve segregated neural networks, and both are altered in individuals with excess weight.

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