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Impaired updating of working memory representations in individuals with high BMI: Evidence for dopaminergic mechanisms

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Herzog,  Nadine       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Hartmann,  Hendrik       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Waltmann,  Maria       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Deserno,  Lorenz       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Villringer,  Arno       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Horstmann,  Annette       
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Herzog, N., Hartmann, H., Kanyamibwa, A., Waltmann, M., Kovacs, P., Deserno, L., et al. (2023). Impaired updating of working memory representations in individuals with high BMI: Evidence for dopaminergic mechanisms. bioRxiv. doi:10.1101/2023.11.03.565528.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-E80F-E
Abstract
Everyday life requires an adaptive balance between distraction-resistant maintenance of information and the flexibility to update this information when needed. These opposing mechanisms are proposed to be balanced through a working memory gating mechanism. Prior research indicates that obesity may elevate the risk of working memory deficits, yet the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Dopaminergic abnormalities have emerged as a potential mediator. However, current models suggest these abnormalities should only shift the balance in working memory tasks, not produce overall deficits. The empirical support for this notion is currently lacking, however. To address this gap, we pooled data from three studies (N=320) where participants performed a working memory gating task. Higher BMI was associated with overall poorer working memory, irrespective of whether there was a need to maintain or update information. However, when participants, in addition to BMI level, were categorized based on certain putative dopamine-signaling characteristics (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms; specifically, Taq1A and DARPP), distinct working memory gating effects emerged. These SNPs, primarily associated with striatal dopamine transmission, specifically influenced updating. Moreover, blood amino acid ratio, which indicates central dopamine synthesis capacity, combined with BMI, shifted the balance between distractor-resistant maintenance and updating. These findings suggest that both dopamine-dependent and dopamine-independent cognitive effects exist in obesity. Understanding these effects is crucial if we aim to modify maladaptive cognitive profiles in individuals with obesity.