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The Association between Body Mass Index and Intra-Cortical Myelin: Findings from the Human Connectome Project

  • dong, debo
  • wang, yulin
  • long, zhiliang
  • jackson, todd
  • chang, xuebin
  • zhou, feng
  • chen, hong
Publication Date
Sep 16, 2021
DOI: 10.3390/nu13093221
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Intra-cortical myelin is a myelinated part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for the spread and synchronization of neuronal activity in the cortex. Recent animal studies have established a link between obesity and impaired oligodendrocyte maturation vis-à-vis cells that produce and maintain myelin / however, the association between obesity and intra-cortical myelination remains to be established. To investigate the effects of obesity on intra-cortical myelin in living humans, we employed a large, demographically well-characterized sample of healthy young adults drawn from the Human Connectome Project (n = 1066). Intra-cortical myelin was assessed using a novel T1-w/T2-w ratio method. Linear regression analysis was used to investigate the association between body mass index (BMI), an indicator of obesity, and intra-cortical myelination, adjusting for covariates of no interest. We observed BMI was related to lower intra-cortical myelination in regions previously identified to be involved in reward processing (i.e., medial orbitofrontal cortex, rostral anterior cingulate cortex), attention (i.e., visual cortex, inferior/middle temporal gyrus), and salience detection (i.e., insula, supramarginal gyrus) in response to viewing food cues (corrected p &lt / 0.05). In addition, higher BMIs were associated with more intra-cortical myelination in regions associated with somatosensory processing (i.e., the somatosensory network) and inhibitory control (i.e., lateral inferior frontal gyrus, frontal pole). These findings were also replicated after controlling for key potential confounding factors including total intracranial volume, substance use, and fluid intelligence. Findings suggested that altered intra-cortical myelination may represent a novel microstructure-level substrate underlying prior abnormal obesity-related brain neural activity, and lays a foundation for future investigations designed to evaluate how living habits, such as dietary habit and physical activity, affect intra-cortical myelination.

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