Altered neural responsivity to food cues in relation to food preferences, but not appetite-related hormone concentrations after RYGB-surgery

Harriët F A Zoon, Suzanne E M de Bruijn, Paul A M Smeets, Cees de Graaf, Ignace M C Janssen, Wendy Schijns, Edo O Aarts, Gerry Jager, Sanne Boesveldt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: After Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery, patients report a shift in food preferences away from high-energy foods.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to elucidate the potential mechanisms underlying this shift in food preferences by assessing changes in neural responses to food pictures and odors before and after RYGB. Additionally, we investigated whether altered neural responsivity was associated with changes in plasma endocannabinoid and ghrelin concentrations.

DESIGN: 19 RYGB patients (4 men; age 41 ± 10 years; BMI 41 ± 1 kg/m2 before; BMI 36 ± 1 kg/m2 after) participated in this study. Before and two months after RYGB surgery, they rated their food preferences using the Macronutrient and Taste Preference Ranking Task and BOLD fMRI responses towards pictures and odors of high-, and low-energy foods and non-food items were measured. Blood samples were taken to determine plasma endocannabinoid and ghrelin concentrations pre- and post-surgery.

RESULTS: Patients demonstrated a shift in food preferences away from high-fat/sweet and towards low-energy/savory food products, which correlated with decreased superior parietal lobule responsivity to high-energy food odor and a reduced difference in precuneus responsivity to high-energy versus low-energy food pictures. In the anteroventral prefrontal cortex (superior frontal gyrus) the difference in deactivation towards high-energy versus non-food odors reduced. The precuneus was less deactivated in response to all cues. Plasma concentrations of anandamide were higher after surgery, while plasma concentrations of other endocannabinoids and ghrelin did not change. Alterations in appetite-related hormone concentrations did not correlate with changes in neural responsivity.

CONCLUSIONS: RYGB leads to changed responsivity of the frontoparietal control network that orchestrates top-down control to high-energy food compared to low-energy food and non-food cues, rather than in reward related brain regions, in a satiated state. Together with correlations with the shift in food preference from high- to low-energy foods this indicates a possible role in new food preference formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Endocannabinoid
  • Energy-density
  • Food cues
  • Ghrelin
  • Obesity
  • Olfactory
  • Reward
  • Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery
  • Visual
  • fMRI
  • Visual Perception/physiology
  • Gastric Bypass
  • Humans
  • Endocannabinoids/blood
  • Male
  • Ghrelin/blood
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging
  • Obesity/diagnostic imaging
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Food
  • Cues
  • Olfactory Perception/physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Food Preferences/physiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Appetite/physiology
  • Oxygen/blood


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