January 21, 2021

Cerebral μ-opioid and CB1-receptor systems have distinct roles in human feeding behavior

Eating behavior varies greatly between healthy individuals, but the neurobiological basis of these trait-like differences in feeding remains unknown. Central mu-opioid receptors (MOR) and cannabinoid CB1-receptors (CB1R) regulate energy balance via multiple neural pathways, promoting food intake and reward. Because obesity and eating disorders have been associated with alterations in brain’s opioid and endocannabinoid signaling, the variation in MOR and CB1R systems could potentially underlie distinct eating behavior phenotypes, also in non-obese population. In this retrospective positron emission tomography (PET) study, we analyzed [11C]carfentanil PET scans of MORs from 92 healthy subjects (70 males and 22 females), and [18F]FMPEP-d2 scans of CB1Rs from 35 subjects (all males, all also included in the [11C]carfentanil sample). Eating styles were measured with the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ). We found that lower cerebral MOR availability was associated with increase in external eating – individuals with low MORs reported being more likely to eat in response to environment’s palatable food cues. CB1R availability was negatively associated with multiple eating behavior traits. We conclude that although MORs and CB1Rs overlap anatomically and functionally in the brain, they have distinct roles in mediating individual feeding patterns.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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