ISSN 1470-3947 (print) | ISSN 1479-6848 (online)

Endocrine Abstracts (2017) 51 EN1.2 | DOI: 10.1530/endoabs.51.EN1.2

Neuroscience, neuroendocrinology and the psychology of obesity: Should you 'go with your gut' or is it 'mind over matter'?

Caroline Steele


Although ‘simple’ nutritional obesity is increasingly prevalent in the population some other types, such as those secondary to underlying medical conditions, remain relatively rare. These childhood disorders associated with obesity (such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, hypothalamic obesity, leptin deficiency, Prader-Willi Syndrome and melanocortin-4 receptor mutations) will be reviewed and consideration given to which patients should be investigated for these conditions. Research studies of patients with obesity secondary to some of these underlying medical conditions have used investigative techniques such as functional neuroimaging and eating behaviour studies, and have explored variations in the hormones involved with the regulation of appetite and food intake which may underlie the development of obesity in these conditions. A brief overview of these techniques and their findings in relation to these disorders will be discussed and their use in investigating the underlying pathophysiology of ‘simple’ nutritional obesity considered. As the importance of the central nervous system in initiating and maintaining obesity is becoming increasingly clear, techniques involving neuroscience, neuroendocrinology and psychology have been identified by the Medical Research Council (MRC) as one of their scientific areas of obesity research priority. The use of these varied investigative techniques recognises that obesity is a ‘complex physiological and socioeconomic issue, spanning many disciplines’. By understanding the underlying mechanisms of obesity in those with underlying medical conditions, this helps to guide researchers investigating ‘simple obesity’ and aid in the goal of eventually developing effective interventions to prevent and treat these conditions.

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