My body looks like that girl's: Body mass index modulates brain activity during body image self-reflection among young women

Xiao Gao, Xiao Deng, Xin Wen, Ying She, Petra Corianne Vinke, Hong Chen

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Body image distress or body dissatisfaction is one of the most common consequences of obesity and overweight. We investigated the neural bases of body image processing in overweight and average weight young women to understand whether brain regions that were previously found to be involved in processing self-reflective, perspective and affective components of body image would show different activation between two groups. Thirteen overweight (O-W group, age = 20.31±1.70 years) and thirteen average weight (A-W group, age = 20.15±1.62 years) young women underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while performing a body image self-reflection task. Among both groups, whole-brain analysis revealed activations of a brain network related to perceptive and affective components of body image processing. ROI analysis showed a main effect of group in ACC as well as a group by condition interaction within bilateral EBA, bilateral FBA, right IPL, bilateral DLPFC, left amygdala and left MPFC. For the A-W group, simple effect analysis revealed stronger activations in Thin-Control compared to Fat-Control condition within regions related to perceptive (including bilateral EBA, bilateral FBA, right IPL) and affective components of body image processing (including bilateral DLPFC, left amygdala), as well as self-reference (left MPFC). The O-W group only showed stronger activations in Fat-Control than in Thin-Control condition within regions related to the perceptive component of body image processing (including left EBA and left FBA). Path analysis showed that in the Fat-Thin contrast, body dissatisfaction completely mediated the group difference in brain response in left amygdala across the whole sample. Our data are the first to demonstrate differences in brain response to body pictures between average weight and overweight young females involved in a body image self-reflection task. These results provide insights for understanding the vulnerability to body image distress among overweight or obese young females.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0164450
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1-Oct-2016


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