The orbitofrontal cortex, food intake and obesity

The orbitofrontal cortex, food intake and obesity

J Psychiatry Neurosci 2020;45(5):304-312 | PDF

Lauren T. Seabrook, BSc; Stephanie L. Borgland, PhD

Obesity is a major health challenge facing many people throughout the world. Increased consumption of palatable, high-caloric foods is one of the major drivers of obesity. Both orexigenic and anorexic states have been thoroughly reviewed elsewhere; here, we focus on the cognitive control of feeding in the context of obesity, and how the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is implicated, based on data from preclinical and clinical research. The OFC is important in decision-making and has been heavily researched in neuropsychiatric illnesses such as addiction and obsessive–compulsive disorder. However, activity in the OFC has only recently been described in research into food intake, obesity and eating disorders. The OFC integrates sensory modalities such as taste, smell and vision, and it has dense reciprocal projections into thalamic, midbrain and striatal regions to fine-tune decision-making. Thus, the OFC may be anatomically and functionally situated to play a critical role in the etiology and maintenance of excess feeding behaviour. We propose that the OFC serves as an integrative hub for orchestrating motivated feeding behaviour and suggest how its neurobiology and functional output might be altered in the obese state.


Submitted Sep. 25, 2019; Revised Nov. 30, 2019; Accepted Dec. 9, 2019; Publislhed online Mar. 13, 2020

Affiliations: From the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta., Canada (Seabrook, Borgland).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: Both authors participated equally in the conception of the article and analysis and interpretation of the data. Both authors wrote and reviewed the article, approved the final version for publication and certify that no other individuals not listed as authors have made substantial contributions to the paper.

DOI: 10.1503/jpn.190163

Correspondence to: S. Borgland, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Dr NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4; s.borgland@ucalgary.ca