Gastric distention activates satiety circuitry in the human brain

Gene Jack Wang, Dardo Tomasi, Walter Backus, Ruiliang Wang, Frank Telang, Allan Geliebter, Judith Korner, Angela Bauman, Joanna S. Fowler, Panayotis K. Thanos, Nora D. Volkow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

236 Scopus citations


Gastric distention during meal ingestion activates vagal afferents, which send signals from the stomach to the brain and result in the perception of fullness and satiety. Distention is one of the mechanisms that modulates food intake. We measured regional brain activation during dynamic gastric balloon distention in 18 health subjects using functional magnetic resonance imaging and the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses. The BOLD signal was significantly changed by both inflow and outflow changes in the balloon's volume. For lower balloon volumes, water inflow was associated with activation of sensorimotor cortices and right insula. The larger volume condition additionally activated left posterior amygdala, left posterior insula and the left precuneus. The response in the left amygdala and insula was negatively associated with changes in self-reports of fullness and positively with changes in plasma ghrelin concentration, whereas those in the right amygdala and insula were negatively associated with the subject's body mass index. The widespread activation induced by gastric distention corroborates the influence of vagal afferents on cortical and subcortical brain activity. These findings provide evidence that the left amygdala and insula process interoceptive signals of fullness produced by gastric distention involved in the controls of food intake.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1831
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2008


  • Amygdala
  • Gastric distention
  • Insula
  • fMRI


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