Prefrontal gray matter volume mediates genetic risks for obesity

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Abstract

Genetic and neuroimaging research has identified neurobiological correlates of obesity. However, evidence for an integrated model of genetic risk and brain structural alterations in the pathophysiology of obesity is still absent. Here we investigated the relationship between polygenic risk for obesity, gray matter structure and body mass index (BMI) by the use of univariate and multivariate analyses in two large, independent cohorts (n = 330 and n = 347). Higher BMI and higher polygenic risk for obesity were significantly associated with medial prefrontal gray matter decrease, and prefrontal gray matter was further shown to significantly mediate the effect of polygenic risk for obesity on BMI in both samples. Building on this, the successful individualized prediction of BMI by means of multivariate pattern classification algorithms trained on whole-brain imaging data and external validations in the second cohort points to potential clinical applications of this imaging trait marker.

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