News items Bariatric surgery improves blood flow to brain regions involved in memory

12 February 2024

MRI scans reveal that after bariatric surgery, the quality of blood flow improves in parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. This may explain why individuals score significantly better on brain tests after bariatric surgery. Researchers from Radboudumc show that these positive effects of weight loss persist even after two years.

Previously, it was known that over forty percent of individuals score significantly better on brain tests six months after bariatric surgery. This improvement persists after two years, and MRI scans now show subtle improvements in certain brain regions associated with learning and memory, specifically the temporal lobe and the hippocampus.

Not only did brain function improve up to two years after the surgery, but researcher Emma Custers and Professor of Anatomy Amanda Kiliaan from Radboud university medical center also observe continued improvements in depressive symptoms, medication usage, inflammation, other conditions, physical activity, weight, and blood pressure after two years. A myriad of positive effects.

Stable blood flow

MRI scans reveal that two years after bariatric surgery, there is a decrease in gray matter volume in the brain, but compared to other studies, this decline falls within the normal aging process of the brain. However, the hippocampus does not shrink. The gray matter of the temporal lobe also remains thicker, and blood flow there remains stable despite aging. In fact, the stability of blood flow even improves, indicating better quality of blood vessels. Kiliaan: ‘These are subtle improvements, or the cessation of decline. But especially in combination with all other improvements, there are many positive long-term effects of bariatric surgery.’

These conclusions are based on the BARICO study, which followed 133 individuals for two years after bariatric surgery. Apart from Radboudumc, Rijnstate and TNO Leiden also participated in the study.

View here our previous article on this study.

About the publication

The results of the BARICO study after two years and the MRI scans have been published in JAMA Network Open: Long-term brain structure and cognition following bariatric surgery. Emma Custers, Debby Vreeken, Robert Kleemann, Roy P. C. Kessels, Marco Duering, Jonna Brouwer, Theo J. Aufenacker, Bart P.L. Witteman, Jessica Snabel, Eveline Gart, Henk J. M. M. Mutsaerts, Maximilian Wiesmann, Eric J. Hazebroek, Amanda J. Kiliaan.

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