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The temporal response of the brain after eating revealed by functional MRI


After eating, the human brain senses a biochemical change and then signals satiation, but precisely when this occurs is unknown. Even for well-established physiological systems like glucose–insulin regulation, the timing of interaction between hormonal processes and neural events is inferred mostly from blood sampling1,2,3,4,5,6. Recently, neuroimaging studies have provided in vivo information about the neuroanatomical correlates of the regulation of energy intake7,8,9,10. Temporal orchestration of such systems, however, is crucial to the integration of neuronal and hormonal signals that control eating behaviour11. The challenge of this functional magnetic resonance imaging study is to map not only where but also when the brain will respond after food ingestion. Here we use a temporal clustering analysis technique to demonstrate that eating-related neural activity peaks at two different times with distinct localization. Importantly, the differentiated responses are interacting with an internal signal, the plasma insulin. These results support the concept of temporal parcellation of brain activity12, which reflects the different natures of stimuli and responses. Moreover, this study provides a neuro-imaging basis for detecting dynamic processes without prior knowledge of their timing, such as the acute effects of medication and nutrition in the brain.

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Figure 1: Neuro-biochemical interaction: an fMRI protocol for tracing the time course of brain activation following oral glucose intake.
Figure 2: Temporal maxima of brain activity following glucose ingestion.
Figure 3: Mapping of dynamic brain activities following glucose ingestion.
Figure 4: Time-dependent correlation between the fMRI response and the fasting plasma insulin concentrations.

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We thank M. Matsuda, R. A. DeFronzo, L. Nickerson, S. C. Pridgen and M. Liotti for their help in this study.

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Liu, Y., Gao, JH., Liu, HL. et al. The temporal response of the brain after eating revealed by functional MRI. Nature 405, 1058–1062 (2000).

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