DOI: 10.1007/s00259-018-4002-7Pages: 1618-1625

Noradrenaline transporter availability on [11C]MRB PET predicts weight loss success in highly obese adults

1. University Medical Center, Integrated Research and Treatment Center (IFB) AdiposityDiseases

2. University of Leipzig, Department of Nuclear Medicine

3. LMU Munich, Department of Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital

4. University of Leipzig, Department of Endocrinology and Nephrology

5. Psychiatry and Chemistry New York University School of Medicine Faculty, Department of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology

6. New York University School of Medicine Faculty, Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry and Chemistry

Correspondence to:
Franziska J. Vettermann
Tel: +49-089-440074646




Although the mechanisms by which the central noradrenaline (NA) system influences appetite and controls energy balance are quite well understood, its relationship to changes in body weight remains largely unknown. The main goal of this study was to further clarify whether the brain NA system is a stable trait or whether it can be altered by dietary intervention.


We aimed to compare central NA transporter (NAT) availability in ten obese, otherwise healthy individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 42.4 ± 3.7 kg/m2 (age 34 ± 9 years, four women) and ten matched non-obese, healthy controls (BMI 23.9 ± 2.5 kg/m2, age 33 ± 10 years, four women) who underwent PET with the NAT-selective radiotracer (S,S)-[11C]O-methylreboxetine (MRB) before and 6 months after dietary intervention.


MRI-based individual volume-of-interest analyses revealed an increase in binding potential (BPND) in the insula and the hippocampus of obese individuals, which correlated well with changes in BMI (−3.3 ± 5.3%; p = 0.03) following completion of the dietary intervention. Furthermore, voxel-wise regression analyses showed that lower BPND in these regions, but also in the midbrain and the prefrontal cortex, at baseline was associated with higher achieved weight loss (e.g., hippocampal area R2 = 0.80; p < 0.0001). No changes were observed in non-obese controls.


These first longitudinal interventional data on NAT availability in highly obese individuals indicate that the central NA system is modifiable. Our findings suggest that NAT availability before intervention could help predict the amount and success of weight loss in obese individuals and help adjust treatment options individually by allowing prediction of the benefit of a dietary intervention.

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  • Accepted: Mar 22, 2018
  • Online: Apr 7, 2018

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