Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Additional Department

Geisel School of Medicine


Obesity is a major public health concern that involves an interaction between genetic susceptibility and exposure to environmental cues (e.g., food marketing); however, the mechanisms that link these factors and contribute to unhealthy eating are unclear. Using a well-known obesity risk polymorphism (FTO rs9939609) in a sample of 78 children (ages 9-12 y), we observed that children at risk for obesity exhibited stronger responses to food commercials in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) than children not at risk. Similarly, children at a higher genetic risk for obesity demonstrated larger NAcc volumes. Although a recessive model of this polymorphism best predicted body mass and adiposity, a dominant model was most predictive of NAcc size and responsivity to food cues. These findings suggest that children genetically at risk for obesity are predisposed to represent reward signals more strongly, which, in turn, may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors later in life.



Original Citation

Rapuano KM, Zieselman AL, Kelley WM, Sargent JD, Heatherton TF, Gilbert-Diamond D. Genetic risk for obesity predicts nucleus accumbens size and responsivity to real-world food cues. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jan 3;114(1):160-165. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1605548113. Epub 2016 Dec 19. PMID: 27994159; PMCID: PMC5224374.