Like a symphony, multiple brain regions work in concert to regulate the need to eat. The researchers believe they have identified a symphony conductor - a brain region that regulates appetite suppression and activation - tucked within the amygdala, the brain's emotional hub.
The team found the neurocircuitry controlling appetite loss, called anorexia, said the senior author. Anorexia can be triggered by disease-induced inflammation, and can negatively impact recovery and treatment success. It is harmful to quality of life and increases morbidity in many diseases, the authors wrote in the journal Nature Communications.
To determine if the specific neurons within the amygdala control feeding behavior, researchers inhibited the neurons, which increased appetite. They then activated the neurons, causing a decrease in appetite.
"By silencing the neurons within the circuit, we can effectively block feeding suppression caused by inflammation to make patients eat more," the senior author said. "We used anorexia for simplification, but for people with obesity, we can activate those neurons to help them eat less. That's the potential impact of this kind of study."
Feeding sounds simple, but it's not. People feel hunger either to satisfy nutritional deficits or for the reward of eating something good. Once food is found, we check that it's good before chewing and swallowing. After a certain point, we feel satisfaction.
Theoretically, each step is controlled by different neurociruitry. "This circuitry we found is really exciting because it suggests that many different parts of brain regions talk to each other," the senior author said. "We can hopefully find a way to understand how these different steps of feeding are coordinated."
The brain region was found in mice models. The next step is to identify it in humans and validate that same mechanisms exist. If they do, then scientists can find some way to control feeding activities, the senior author said.
Neural circuitry influencing eating behaviors identified!
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