The role of neural impulse control mechanisms for dietary success in obesity

Martin Weygandt*, Knut Mai, Esther Dommes, Verena Leupelt, Kerstin Hackmack, Thorsten Kahnt, Yvonne Rothemund, Joachim Spranger, John Dylan Haynes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Deficits in impulse control are discussed as key mechanisms for major worldwide health problems such as drug addiction and obesity. For example, obese subjects have difficulty controlling their impulses to overeat when faced with food items. Here, we investigated the role of neural impulse control mechanisms for dietary success in middle-aged obese subjects. Specifically, we used a food-specific delayed gratification paradigm and functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure eating-related impulse-control in middle-aged obese subjects just before they underwent a twelve-week low calorie diet. As expected, we found that subjects with higher behavioral impulse control subsequently lost more weight. Furthermore, brain activity before the diet in VMPFC and DLPFC correlates with subsequent weight loss. Additionally, a connectivity analysis revealed that stronger functional connectivity between these regions is associated with better dietary success and impulse control. Thus, the degree to which subjects can control their eating impulses might depend on the interplay between control regions (DLPFC) and regions signaling the reward of food (VMPFC). This could potentially constitute a general mechanism that also extends to other disorders such as drug addiction or alcohol abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-678
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Diet
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Impulse-control
  • Impulsivity
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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