Objective: Basal ganglia regions are part of the brain’s reward-processing networks and are implicated in the neurobiology of obesity and eating disorders. This study examines basal ganglia microstructural properties in adults with and without obesity. Methods: Diffusion basis spectrum imaging (DBSI) images were analyzed to obtain putative imaging markers of neuroinflammation. Relationships between basal ganglia DBSI metrics and reward sensitivity and eating behaviors were also explored. Results: A total of 46 participants (25 people with obesity; aged 20-40 years; 37 women) were included. Relative to the people in the normal-weight group, people with obesity had smaller caudate and larger nucleus accumbens (NAcc) volumes (p < 0.05) and lower DBSI fiber fraction (reflecting apparent axonal/dendrite density) in NAcc and putamen, higher DBSI nonrestricted fraction (reflecting tissue edema) in NAcc and caudate, and higher DBSI restricted fraction (reflecting tissue cellularity) in putamen (p ≤ 0.01, all). Increased emotional and reward eating behaviors were related to lower NAcc axonal/dendrite density and greater tissue edema (p ≤ 0.002). The relationships between emotional eating and adiposity measures were mediated by NAcc microstructure. Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that microstructural alterations in basal ganglia relate to obesity and insights linking NAcc microstructure and eating behavior in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1328-1337
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


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