Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Abdominal fat distribution and its relationship to brain changes: the differential effects of age on cerebellar structure and function: a cross-sectional, exploratory study
  1. Matthias Raschpichler1,
  2. Kees Straatman2,
  3. Matthias Leopold Schroeter3,
  4. Katrin Arelin4,5,
  5. Haiko Schlögl6,
  6. Dominik Fritzsch7,
  7. Meinhard Mende8,
  8. André Pampel3,
  9. Yvonne Böttcher1,
  10. Michael Stumvoll6,
  11. Arno Villringer3,4,
  12. Karsten Mueller3
  1. 1Leipzig University Medical Center, IFB AdiposityDiseases, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  2. 2Advanced Imaging Facilities, College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  3. 3Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
  4. 4Center for Civilization Diseases, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  5. 5Clinic for Cognitive Neurology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  6. 6Departmant of Internal Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  7. 7Department for Neuroradiology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  8. 8Clinical Trial Centre Leipzig, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Matthias Raschpichler; mraschpichler{at}


Objectives To investigate whether the metabolically important visceral adipose tissue (VAT) relates differently to structural and functional brain changes in comparison with body weight measured as body mass index (BMI). Moreover, we aimed to investigate whether these effects change with age.

Design Cross-sectional, exploratory.

Setting University Clinic, Integrative Research and Treatment Centre.

Participants We included 100 (mean BMI=26.0 kg/m², 42 women) out of 202 volunteers randomly invited by the city's registration office, subdivided into two age groups: young-to-mid-age (n=51, 20–45 years of age, mean BMI=24.9, 24 women) versus old (n=49, 65–70 years of age, mean BMI=27.0, 18 women).

Main outcome measures VAT, BMI, subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, brain structure (grey matter density), functional brain architecture (eigenvector centrality, EC).

Results We discovered a loss of cerebellar structure with increasing VAT in the younger participants, most significantly in regions involved in motor processing. This negative correlation disappeared in the elderly. Investigating functional brain architecture showed again inverse VAT–cerebellum correlations, whereas now regions involved in cognitive and emotional processing were significant. Although we detected similar results for EC using BMI, significant age interaction for both brain structure and functional architecture was only found using VAT.

Conclusions Visceral adiposity is associated with cerebellar changes of both structure and function, whereas the regions involved contribute to motor, cognitive and emotional processes. Furthermore, these associations seem to be age dependent, with younger adults’ brains being adversely affected.

  • Basic Sciences
  • Neurology

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.