A research conducted in UniSA and Deakin University shows that obese people have decreased brain plasticity. They are less likely to re-wire their brains and find new neural pathways. This is a recent discovery which is helpful for people recovering from a brain injury or stroke.
Researchers tested 15 obese people aged between 18 and 60, comparing them to 15 healthy people in a control group. The experiments included transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The healthy-weight control group had significant neural activity in response to the stimulation. Whereas the brain plasticity in response to the stimulation in the obese group was impaired. Both groups received repeated pulses of electrical stimulation to the brain.
Dr Brenton, UniSA researcher, said that the findings are a first physiological evidence of a connection between obesity and reduced brain functioning.
Obesity is measured using a BMI calculator, calculating the ratio between height and weight. Anyone beyond BMI 25 is considered overweight, and above 29 is obese.
“Obesity is already associated with a raft of adverse health effects, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and dementia,” Dr Hordacre says.
“For the first time, we found that obesity was associated with impaired brain function…” he says.
According to World Health Organization, 650 million people are obese. Along with health risks, this problem is a serious financial burden for global health systems.
“These new findings suggest that losing weight is particularly important for healthy brain ageing or for recovery in people who suffer strokes or brain injuries, where learning is fundamental for recovery” stated Dr Hordacre.