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Human neuroimaging studies have consistently reported changes in cerebellar function and integrity in association with obesity. To date, however, the nature of this link has not been studied directly. Emerging evidence suggests a role for the cerebellum in higher cognitive functions through reciprocal connections with the prefrontal cortex. The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine appetite changes associated with noninvasive prefronto-cerebellar neuromodulation in obesity. 12 subjects with class I obesity (mean BMI 32.9 kg/m2) underwent a randomized, single-blinded, sham-controlled, crossover study, during which they received transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS; active/sham) aimed at simultaneously enhancing the activity of the prefrontal cortex and decreasing the activity of the cerebellum. Changes in appetite (state and food-cue-triggered) and performance in a food-modified working memory task were evaluated. We found that active tDCS caused an increase in hunger and desire to eat following food-cue exposure. In line with these data, subjects also tended to make more errors during the working memory task. No changes in basic motor performance occurred. This study represents the first demonstration that prefronto-cerebellar neuromodulation can influence appetite in individuals with obesity. While preliminary, our findings support a potential role for prefronto-cerebellar pathways in the behavioral manifestations of obesity.


This article was published in the International Journal of Obesity, available at DOI:10.1038/s41366-018-0278-8.



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