Deakin University

File(s) under permanent embargo

Structural connectivity and weight loss in children with obesity: a study of the 'connectobese'

journal contribution
posted on 2019-01-01, 00:00 authored by M J C M Augustijn, M A Di Biase, A Zalesky, L Van Acker, A De Guchtenaere, E D’Hondt, M Lenoir, F J A Deconinck, Karen CaeyenberghsKaren Caeyenberghs
© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Background: Previous studies suggest that obesity (OB) is associated with disrupted brain network organization; however, it remains unclear whether these differences already exist during childhood. Moreover, it should be investigated whether deviant network organization may be susceptible to treatment. Methods: Here, we compared the structural connectomes of children with OB with age-matched healthy weight (HW) controls (aged 7–11 years). In addition, we examined the effect of a multidisciplinary treatment program, consisting of diet restriction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical activity for children with OB on brain network organization. After stringent quality assessment criteria, 40 (18 OB, 22 HW) data sets of the total sample of 51 participants (25 OB, 26 HW) were included in further analyses. For all participants, anthropometric measurements were administered twice, with a 5-month interval between pre- and post tests. Pre- and post T1- and diffusion-weighted imaging scans were also acquired and analyzed using a graph-theoretical approach and network-based statistics. Results: Global network analyses revealed a significantly increased normalized clustering coefficient and small-worldness in children with OB compared with HW controls. In addition, regional analyses revealed increased betweenness centrality, reduced clustering coefficient, and increased structural network strength in children with OB, mainly in the motor cortex and reward network. Importantly, children with OB lost a considerable amount of their body mass after the treatment; however, no changes were observed in the organization of their brain networks. Conclusion: This is the first study showing disrupted structural connectomes of children with OB, especially in the motor and reward network. These results provide new insights into the pathophysiology underlying childhood obesity. The treatment did result in a significant weight loss, which was however not associated with alterations in the brain networks. These findings call for larger samples to examine the impact of short-term and long-term weight loss (treatment) on children’s brain network organization.



International Journal of Obesity




2309 - 2321


Springer Nature


Berlin, Germany







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal