Gender Differences in Brain Activation by Food Stimulation

  • Gene-Jack Wang
  • Nora D. Volkow
  • Frank Telang
  • Panayotis K. Thanos
  • Joanna S. Fowler


The increasing prevalence of obesity worldwide and associated morbidity and mortality highlights the need to understand the neurobiological and functional mechanisms underlying eating behaviors. Gender is a relevant factor since women are reported to have higher rates of obesity than men. To tap into the neurobiological underpinnings of eating behavior, we developed a food stimulation paradigm to be used for imaging and showed that the presentation of food that could not be consumed in normal weight subjects was associated with increased metabolic activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is a brain region involved with conditioning, salience attribution, and motivation. Women had greater activation in the anterior prefrontal and the orbitofrontal cortex than men during food stimulation. Using the same food stimulation paradigm, we found blunted activation of brain regions involved with inhibitory control in women when compared with men, which suggests a possible neurobiological mechanism for the gender differences in this behavior. Understanding the mechanism(s) contributing to gender differences in overeating behaviors may provide a scientific basis for pharmacological and behavioral approaches to its prevention and treatment.


Positron Emission Tomography Ventral Tegmental Area Luteal Phase Orbitofrontal Cortex Palatable Food 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Body mass index


Blood oxygen level dependent






Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Positron emission tomography


Statistical parameter mapping



The brain imaging studies were carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory with infrastructure support from the US Department of Energy OBER (DE-ACO2-76CH00016) and under support in part by the National Institute of Health (NIH): R01AA9481 (GJW), R01DA6278 (GJW), R01DA6891 (GJW), R21DA018457 (GJW), R01MH66961 (GJW), K05DA020001 (JSF), the Intramural Research Program of the NIH (FT, PKT), and M01RR10710 (the General Clinical Research Center of Stony Brook University).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gene-Jack Wang
    • 1
  • Nora D. Volkow
  • Frank Telang
  • Panayotis K. Thanos
  • Joanna S. Fowler
  1. 1.Medical DepartmentBrookhaven National LaboratoryUptonUSA

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