Combined effects of age and BMI are related to altered cortical thickness in adolescence and adulthood.


Overweight and obesity are associated with functional and structural alterations in the brain, but how these associations change across critical developmental periods remains unknown. Here, we examined the relationship between age, body mass index (BMI) and cortical thickness (CT) in healthy adolescents (n = 70; 14-19 y) and adults (n = 75; 25-45 y). We also examined the relationship between adiposity, impulsivity, measured by delay discounting (DD), and CT of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), a region key to impulse control. A significant age-by-BMI interaction was observed in both adolescents and adults; however, the direction of this relationship differed between age groups. In adolescents, increased age-adjusted BMI Z-score attenuated age-related CT reductions globally and in frontal, temporal and occipital regions. In adults, increased BMI augmented age-related CT reductions, both globally and in bilateral parietal cortex. Although DD was unrelated to adiposity in both groups, increased DD and adiposity were both associated with reduced IFG thickness in adolescents and adults. Our findings suggest that the known age effects on CT in adolescence and adulthood are moderated by adiposity. The association between weight, cortical development and its functional implications would suggest that future studies of adolescent and adult brain development take adiposity into account.