Systemic inflammation mediates the negative relationship between visceral adiposity and cognitive control

Corinne N. Cannavale, Melisa Bailey, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Sharon V. Thompson, Anne M. Walk, Nicholas A. Burd, Hannah D. Holscher, Naiman A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Elevated visceral adipose tissue (VAT) has been associated with cardiometabolic risk factors including chronic systemic low-grade inflammation. Whereas the cognitive implications of inflammation have been extensively studied in preclinical models, the influence of inflammatory cytokines on cognitive function in humans is unclear. This study aimed to investigate the relations among VAT, inflammatory cytokines, and cognitive control. We hypothesized that inflammatory markers would mediate the negative influence of VAT on selective attention. Participants between 25 and 46 years (N = 115, 43 females) underwent a DXA scan to estimate VAT. A modified Eriksen Flanker task was used to assess attentional inhibitory control while event-related potentials were recorded. ELISA was used to quantify plasma C-reactive protein (CRP) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentrations. Mediation modeling while controlling for diet quality and education level revealed that CRP concentrations significantly mediated the relationship between VAT and incongruent trial accuracy (indirect effect 95% CI {−0.24, −0.01}). Further, IL-6 concentrations had a significant mediation effect on the relationship between VAT and incongruent P3 peak latency (indirect effect 95% CI {0.05, 1.39}). These results suggest that mechanisms by which visceral adiposity exerts a negative influence on cognitive function includes systemic inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-75
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • C-reactive protein
  • Cognition
  • Flanker
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-6
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Systemic inflammation mediates the negative relationship between visceral adiposity and cognitive control'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this