Brain morphology is altered in both anorexia nervosa and obesity. However, it is yet unclear if the relationship between Body Mass Index-Standard Deviation Score (BMI-SDS) and brain morphology exists across the BMI-SDS spectrum, or is present only in the extremes. The study involved 3160 9-to-11 year-old children (50.3% female) who participate in Generation R, a population-based study. Structural MRI scans were obtained from all children and FreeSurfer was used to quantify both global and surface-based measures of gyrification and cortical thickness. Body length and weight were measured to calculate BMI. Dutch growth curves were used to calculate BMI-SDS. BMI-SDS was analyzed continuously and in two categories (median split). The relationship between BMI-SDS (range − 3.82 to 3.31) and gyrification showed an inverted-U shape curve in children with both lower and higher BMI-SDS values having lower gyrification in widespread areas of the brain. BMI-SDS had a positive linear association with cortical thickness in multiple brain regions. This study provides evidence for an association between BMI-SDS and brain morphology in a large sample of children from the general population and suggests that a normal BMI during childhood is important for brain development. Future studies could determine whether lifestyle modifications optimize BMI-SDS result in return to more typical patterns of brain morphology.

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Brain Structure and Function

Steegers, C. (Cathelijne), Blok, E. (Elisabet), Lamballais, S, Jaddoe, V. (Vincent), Bernardoni, F, Vernooij, M.W, … White, T.J.H. (2021). The association between body mass index and brain morphology in children: a population-based study. Brain Structure and Function. doi:10.1007/s00429-020-02209-0