A1 Journal article – refereed
Obesity Is Associated with Decreased mu-Opioid But Unaltered Dopamine D-2 Receptor Availability in the Brain

List of Authors: Karlsson HK, Tuominen L, Tuulari JJ, Hirvonen J, Parkkola R, Helin S, Salminen P, Nuutila P, Nummenmaa L
Publication year: 2015
Journal: Journal of Neuroscience
Journal name in source: JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
Journal acronym: J NEUROSCI
Volume number: 35
Issue number: 9
Number of pages: 7
ISSN: 0270-6474


Neurochemical pathways involved in pathological overeating and obesity are poorly understood. Although previous studies have shown increased mu-opioid receptor (MOR) and decreased dopamine D-2 receptor (D2R) availability in addictive disorders, the role that these systems play in human obesity still remains unclear. We studied 13 morbidly obese women [mean body mass index (BMI), 42 kg/m(2)] and 14 nonobese age-matched women, and measured brain MOR and D2R availability using PET with selective radioligands [C-11] carfentanil and [C-11] raclopride, respectively. We also used quantitative meta-analytic techniques to pool previous evidence on the effects of obesity on altered D2R availability. Morbidly obese subjects had significantly lower MOR availability than control subjects in brain regions relevant for reward processing, including ventral striatum, insula, and thalamus. Moreover, in these areas, BMI correlated negatively with MOR availability. Striatal MOR availability was also negatively associated with self-reported food addiction and restrained eating patterns. There were no significant differences in D2R availability between obese and nonobese subjects in any brain region. Meta-analysis confirmed that current evidence for altered D2R availability in obesity is only modest. Obesity appears to have unique neurobiological underpinnings in the reward circuit, whereby it is more similar to opioid addiction than to other addictive disorders. The opioid system modulates motivation and reward processing, and low mu-opioid availability may promote overeating to compensate decreased hedonic responses in this system. Behavioral and pharmacological strategies for recovering opioidergic function might thus be critical to curb the obesity epidemic.

Last updated on 2019-11-02 at 14:32