ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (11): 1920-1930.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.01920

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The Relationship between Executive Functions and Pediatric Obesity Epidemic

YI Xianlin1; WANG Mingyi1; WANG Xiaochun2   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China)
    (2 Beijing Century of Health-maintaining Consulting Ltd, Beijing 100037, China)
  • Received:2015-01-08 Online:2015-11-15 Published:2015-11-15
  • Contact: WANG Mingyi, E-mail:


Obesity epidemic is regarded as an abnormal state of fat accumulation, caused by a long-term imbalance between energy intake and consumption. The latest research suggests that executive functions (EFs) relate closely with pediatric obesity. Compared with their healthy peers, obese children might be characterized by poor executive functions in terms of inhibitory control. Specifically, obese children can barely refrain from noticing food stimuli and easily respond to them, which indicates a shortage of attentional inhibition and response inhibition. Research on brain mechanism finds a close relationship between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and obesity. Facing food stimuli, obese persons show a low activation level in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) yet a high activation level in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). The mesolimbic dopamine system could also cause obesity by a complex interaction with the PFC. There is a possible bidirectional relationship between obesity and executive functions. Low levels of executive functions are a risk factor for an increased BMI, and loss of weight will help, to some extent, improve one's executive functions. Some intervention studies suggest that EFs training might have some advantages in weight maintenance; therefore, to increase the validity of EFs training, inhibitory control training in particular, shall be the focus of future research in order to provide efficient solutions to the pediatric obesity epidemic by combining other interventions.

Key words: children, obesity epidemic, executive functions, intervention