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Bariatric Surgery

Exercise modifies hypothalamic connectivity and brain functional networks in women after bariatric surgery: a randomized clinical trial



Obesity is a disease that may involve disrupted connectivity of brain networks. Bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for obesity, and the positive effects on obesity-related conditions may be enhanced by exercise. Herein, we aimed to investigate the possible synergistic effects of Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) and exercise training on brain functional networks.


Thirty women eligible for bariatric surgery were randomly assigned to a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB: n = 15, age = 41.0 ± 7.3 years) or RYGB plus Exercise Training (RYGB + ET: n = 15, age = 41.9 ± 7.2 years). Clinical, laboratory, and brain functional connectivity parameters were assessed at baseline, and 3 (POST3) and 9 months (POST9) after surgery. The 6-month, three-times-a-week, exercise intervention (resistance plus aerobic exercise) was initiated 3 months post-surgery (for RYGB + ET).


Exercise superimposed on bariatric surgery (RYGB + ET) increased connectivity between hypothalamus and sensorial regions (seed-to-voxel analyses of hypothalamic connectivity), and decreased default mode network (DMN) and posterior salience (pSAL) network connectivity (ROI-to-ROI analyses of brain networks connectivity) when compared to RYGB alone (all p-FDR < 0.05). Increases in basal ganglia (BG) network connectivity were only observed in the exercised training group (within-group analyses).


Exercise training is an important component in the management of post-bariatric patients and may improve the hypothalamic connectivity and brain functional networks that are involved in controlling food intake.

Trial registration NCT02441361.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Seed-to-voxel analyses of hypothalamic connectivity.
Fig. 3: ROI-to-ROI analyses of ventral default mode network (vDMN) connectivity.
Fig. 4: ROI-to-ROI analyses of posterior salience (pSAL) network connectivity.
Fig. 5: ROI-to-ROI analyses of basal ganglia (BG) network connectivity.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, BG, upon reasonable request.


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The authors acknowledge the support by Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP - 2016/10993-5), the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq - grant 400157/2016-0 and 301571/2017-1). The study is also partially supported by NIGMS U54GM104940, and NIGMS P20GM103528 from NIH, USA.

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Authors and Affiliations



CAAMF, IHM, HR, WSD, SG, RC, MAS, and BG contributed to the study concept and design. All authors contributed to acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data, and critically reviewed the manuscript for important intellectual content. CAAMF, HR, SG, MPN, and BG drafted the manuscript and conducted the statistical analysis. HR, JPK, and BG obtained funding for the study. RC, ALP, FL, MAS, CCL MCGO, and RMRP provided administrative, technical, or material support. MCGO, HR, and BG supervised the study. CAAMF and BG had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

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Correspondence to Bruno Gualano.

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Merege-Filho, C.A.A., Gil, S.S., Kirwan, J.P. et al. Exercise modifies hypothalamic connectivity and brain functional networks in women after bariatric surgery: a randomized clinical trial. Int J Obes 47, 165–174 (2023).

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