Neuroimaging of gastric distension and gastric bypass surgery

Allan Geliebter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Several neuroimaging studies are presented, which derive from prior work on gastric distension. Using a nonsurgical approach, we inserted gastric balloons into rats, which led to a marked decrease in food intake that normalized at 8 weeks. Body weight, however, remained below controls, which encouraged pursuit of studies in humans. A gastric balloon was inserted in obese and lean subjects, and filled through a tube that led behind the subject with water to 0, 200, 400, 600, 800 mL, on different days prior to ingestion of a liquid meal. As gastric volume increased, intake decreased by about 40%. Stomach capacity was then investigated using a gastric balloon, by assessing subjective (maximal tolerance) and objective measures (gastric compliance). Obese individuals had a much larger stomach capacity than lean by both measures. Next, in a 2-month study, an indwelling gastric balloon was inflated to 400 mL for 1 month and deflated for 1 month in counterbalanced order. Body weight was reduced during the month when the balloon was inflated within the 2nd and 3rd week. The subsequent study involved fMRI in response to gastric distension of 0, 250, and 500 mL while the subject was in a scanner. Ratings of fullness, but not discomfort, increased at 500 mL. Amygdala and insula activation were associated with gastric distension. The amygdala, as part of the limbic system, is involved in emotion and reward, and the insula in interoception. The right amygdala activation was inversely related to BMI, consistent with greater gastric capacity at a higher BMI. The next fMRI study in obese and lean subjects used visual and auditory stimuli of high energy dense (ED) and low ED foods. Increased activation was observed in the midbrain, putamen, posterior cingulate gyrus, hippocampus, and superior temporal gyrus in the obese vs. lean group in response to high vs. low ED food cues. Several of these areas lie within the mesolimbic reward pathway, and greater activation to high ED foods in the obese, suggests they have increased reward-driven eating behavior. Lastly, an fMRI study using the same stimuli was conducted pre and post-gastric bypass surgery. There were postsurgical reductions in neural activity in mesolimbic areas including the prefrontal cortex, and to a greater degree for high ED than low ED cues, reflecting more normalized responses. Through the use of various methodologies, the stomach's influence on food intake, sensations of fullness, and brain activation is presented with suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-465
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1970
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional imaging
  • Gastric volume
  • Intragastric balloon
  • Obesity
  • Satiety
  • fMRI


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