Changes in Cerebral Cortical Thickness Related to Weight Loss Following Bariatric Surgery


Cerebral cortical thickness is associated with memory and intelligence test scores and serves as a measure for changes in cortical gray matter. Previous studies suggest reduced cortical thickness in patients with obesity. This study aimed to investigate changes in cortical thickness following bariatric surgery. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of five patients were analyzed preoperatively and 6 months postoperatively to assess changes in global measures of cortical thickness. No patients were lost to follow-up. This study provides preliminary evidence of brain change following surgery, suggests increases in cerebral cortical thickness in patients with greater excess weight loss, and indicates the need for further investigation using larger samples and correlation with neurocognitive measures, such as memory recall.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Gunstad J, Paul RH, Cohen RA, et al. Relationship between body mass index and brain volume in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. 2008;118(11):1582–93.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Hawkins MAW, Alosco ML, Spitznagel MB, et al. The association between reduced inflammation and cognitive gains after bariatric surgery. Psychosom Med. 2015;77(6):688–96.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Stillman CM, Weinstein AM, Marsland AL, et al. Body-brain connections: the effects of obesity and behavioral interventions on neurocognitive aging. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017;9:115. eCollection 2017. Review

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Spitznagel MB, Hawkins M, Alosco M, et al. Neurocognitive effects of obesity and bariatric surgery. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2015;23(6):488–95. Review.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Shalev D, Arbuckle MR. Metabolism and memory: obesity, diabetes, and dementia. Biol Psychiatry. 2017;82(11):e81–3.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Marqués-Iturria I, Pueyo R, Garolera M, et al. Frontal cortical thinning and subcortical volume reductions in early adulthood obesity. Psychiatry Res. 2013;214(2):109–15.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Veit R, Kullmann S, Heni M, et al. Reduced cortical thickness associated with visceral fat and BMI. Neuroimage Clin. 2014;6:307–11. eCollection 2014.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Thiara G, Cigliobianco M, Muravsky A, et al. Evidence for neurocognitive improvement after bariatric surgery: a systematic review. Psychosomatics. 2017;58(3):217–27. Review

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Pereira JB, Ibarretxe-Bilbao N, Marti MJ, et al. Assessment of cortical degeneration in patients with Parkinson's disease by voxel-based morphometry, cortical folding, and cortical thickness. Hum Brain Mapp. 2012;33(11):2521–34.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Narr KL, Woods RP, Thompson PM, et al. Relationships between IQ and regional cortical gray matter thickness in healthy adults. Cereb Cortex. 2007;17(9):2163–71.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Walhovd KB, Fjell AM, Dale AM, et al. Regional cortical thickness matters in recall after months more than minutes. NeuroImage. 2006;31(3):1343–51.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Bernardoni F, King JA, Geisler D, et al. Weight restoration therapy rapidly reverses cortical thinning in anorexia nervosa: a longitudinal study. NeuroImage. 2016;130:214–22.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    King JA, Geisler D, Ritschel F, et al. Global cortical thinning in acute anorexia nervosa normalizes following long-term weight restoration. Biol Psychiatry. 2015;77(7):624–32.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Fischl B. FreeSurfer. NeuroImage. 2012;62(2):774–81. Review.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Alosco ML, Spitznagel MB, Strain G, et al. Improved memory function two years after bariatric surgery. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(1):32–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Fischl B, Dale AM. Measuring the thickness of the human cerebral cortex from magnetic resonance images. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000;97(20):11050–5.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luis C. Garcia.

Ethics declarations

Approval for this study was provided by Stanford University’s Institutional Review Board, and participants completed written, informed consent.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bohon, C., Garcia, L.C. & Morton, J.M. Changes in Cerebral Cortical Thickness Related to Weight Loss Following Bariatric Surgery. OBES SURG 28, 2578–2582 (2018).

Download citation


  • Bariatric surgery
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss
  • Cortical thickness