Higher adolescent body mass index is associated with lower regional gray and white matter volumes and lower levels of positive emotionality

James T. Kennedy, Paul F. Collins, Monica Luciana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Adolescent obesity is associated with an increased chance of developing serious health risks later in life. Identifying the neurobiological and personality factors related to increases in adiposity is important to understanding what drives maladaptive consummatory and exercise behaviors that result in obesity. Previous research has largely focused on adults with few findings published on interactions among adiposity, brain structure, and personality. In this study, Voxel Based Morphometry (VBM) was used to identify associations between gray and white matter volumes and increasing adiposity, as measured by Body Mass Index percentile (BMI%), in 137 adolescents (age range: 9-20 years, BMI% range: 5.16-99.56). Variations in gray and white matter volume and BMI% were then linked to individual differences in personality measures from the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ). After controlling for age and other covariates, BMI% correlated negatively with gray matter volume in the bilateral caudate (right: partial r = -0.338, left: r = -0.404), medial prefrontal cortex (partial r = -0.339), anterior cingulate (partial r = -0.312), bilateral frontal pole (right: partial r = -0.368, left: r = -0.316), and uncus (partial r = -0.475) as well as white matter volume bilaterally in the anterior limb of the internal capsule (right: partial r = -0.34, left: r = -0.386), extending to the left middle frontal subgyral white matter. Agentic Positive Emotionality (PEM-AG) was correlated negatively with BMI% (partial r = -0.384). PEM-AG was correlated positively with gray matter volume in the right uncus (partial r = 0.329). These results suggest that higher levels of adiposity in adolescents are associated with lower trait levels in reward-related personality domains, as well as structural variations in brain regions associated with reward processing, control, and sensory integration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number413
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 8 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants DA017843 from NIDA and AA020033-05 from NIAAA to ML. This work was also supported by the U of MN Center for Neurobehavioral Development and BTRC grants awarded to the University of Minnesota's Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (P41 RR008079, P41 EB015894, and 1P30 NS076408).

Publisher Copyright:
� 2016 Kennedy, Collins and Luciana.


  • Adolescence
  • BMI
  • Obesity
  • Personality
  • Voxel based morphometry


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