Research at HealthStreet: New brain study seeks to understand changes that occur in brain structure and function following bariatric surgery for weight loss


UF HealthStreet is recruiting for the WISE Brain Study (otherwise known as the Weight loss Intervention Surgical Effects on Brain Function Study), which seeks to understand changes that occur in brain structure and function following bariatric surgery for weight loss. Ronald Cohen, PhD, program director for the Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory in the University of Florida Institute on Aging, serves as the study’s principal investigator.

 CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain

“Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and contributes to a variety of other health problems. We have shown in past research that obesity and associated diabetes contribute to cognitive problems and brain changes. Bariatric surgery provides a powerful and effective intervention to enable dramatic weight loss and improvements in diabetes among people who have been otherwise unsuccessful with dieting,” Cohen said.

Christa Ochoa, the WISE study coordinator, said that by examining obesity and weight loss in the context of bariatric surgery, this study uses a powerful natural experimental manipulation that can provide a unique look into the effects of obesity and weight loss on the brain.

“These changes are assessed through cognitive testing, bio marker and DNA analysis from blood samples, and MRI brain scans. Assessments are done at baseline (pre-surgery), 12 weeks (post-surgery), and 18 months (post-surgery),” Ochoa said, “The study is currently recruiting people who are planning on having bariatric surgery as well as community residents who do not plan on receiving surgery to serve as controls.”

Cohen said that this will be the first published study to examine neuronal, metabolic and vascular brain changes following bariatric surgery.

Cohen hopes that the study will provide the most comprehensive information to date on the effects of obesity on cerebral metabolic, vascular, and neural functions but can provide insight into more.

“The scientific significance likely extends beyond obesity, providing insights into mechanisms that may contribute to vascular cognitive impairment and cognitive aging, and perhaps even neurodegeneration.”

The study is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestion and Kidney Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.