The role of maternal BMI on brain food cue reactivity in children: a preliminary study

Shan Luo, Brendan Angelo, Ting Chow, John R. Monterosso, Anny H. Xiang, Paul M. Thompson, Kathleen A. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Children of overweight and obese parents have an increased risk of obesity. Little is known the neural mechanisms underlying this relationship, specifically the brain systems implicated in self-regulation of food intake. The primary goal here is to examine relationships between maternal body mass index (BMI) and brain responses to food cues in children. Seventy-six children (8.62 ± 1.02 years; 28 M,48F) were included in this study. Height and weight were assessed for children and their biological parents. Maternal height and weight before pregnancy were extracted from the Electronic Medical Records (EMR). BMI (kg/m2) or BMIz (age- and sex-specific BMI) were calculated. Children underwent a magnetic resonance imaging session where they viewed food and non-food images before and after glucose ingestion. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) food cue reactivity was the measurement of interest for region-of-interest (ROI) analyses. Whole-brain exploratory analysis was performed as well. Non-parametric methods were used for data analysis. ROI and whole brain analyses showed that maternal current BMI was inversely associated with child’s ACC and dlPFC food cue reactivity after glucose ingestion, adjusting for age and sex. No significant relationships were found between paternal BMI and child’s food cue reactivity. Child BMIz was negatively associated with the ACC food cue reactivity after glucose ingestion. Our results supported the role of maternal adiposity on child’s responses to appetitive food cues in brain self-regulation circuitry, which may influence eating behavior and obesity risk in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2746-2755
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Childhood obesity
  • Food cue reactivity
  • Maternal obesity
  • Self-regulation


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