Sex Differences and Commonalities in the Impact of a Palatable Meal on Thalamic and Insular Connectivity

Lisa Kilpatrick, Teodora Pribic, Barbara Ciccantelli, Carolina Malagelada, Dan M Livovsky, Anna Accarino, Deborah Pareto, Fernando Azpiroz, Emeran A Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The neural mechanisms underlying subjective responses to meal ingestion remain incompletely understood. We previously showed in healthy men an increase in thalamocortical, and a decrease in insular-cortical connectivity in response to a palatable meal. As sex is increasingly recognized as an important biological variable, we aimed to evaluate sex differences and commonalities in the impact of a well-liked meal on thalamic and anterior insular connectivity in healthy individuals. Participants (20 women and 20 age-matched men) underwent resting-state magnetic resonance imaging (rsMRI) before and after ingesting a palatable meal. In general, the insula showed extensive postprandial reductions in connectivity with sensorimotor and prefrontal cortices, while the thalamus showed increases in connectivity with insular, frontal, and occipital cortices, in both women and men. However, reductions in insular connectivity were more prominent in men, and were related to changes in meal-related sensations (satiety and digestive well-being) in men only. In contrast, increases in thalamic connectivity were more prominent in women, and were related to changes in satiety and digestive well-being in women only. These results suggest that brain imaging may provide objective and sex-specific biomarkers of the subjective feelings associated with meal ingestion.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex/diagnostic imaging
  • Eating/physiology
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Neural Pathways/diagnostic imaging
  • Occipital Lobe/diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex/diagnostic imaging
  • Sensorimotor Cortex/diagnostic imaging
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Thalamus/diagnostic imaging
  • Young Adult


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