The Birth of Obesity Neuroscience during the 20th Century

Document Type : Original Article


School of Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia


Increasing obesity rates are an enduring concern for the health sector globally.   By the beginning of the 21st century, neuroscientists began to assert that obesity is primarily a brain disorder. The resulting field of obesity neuroscience has become an influential lens through which to research the pathogenesis of diet-induced obesity, with important implications for both public health and bioethics. This historical analysis aims to trace the intellectual origins of the obesity neuroscience discipline by examining two historical events: the United States’ war on drugs, and the nutrition transition.  Major historical milestones associated with each of these events are analyzed. Then, the convergence of these events is characterized, by an analysis of how this transformed neuroscience research on hunger.  This analysis demonstrates how the US war on drugs discovered new neurobehavioral epistemologies, predominately around addiction, that were then grafted onto the existing neuroscience of hunger.  The resulting analysis provides an illustrative explanation of the close epistemological relationship between obesity neuroscience and addiction.


Joshua Wang (Google Scholar)


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