A region of the brain called
the amygdala is responsible for powerful emotions like fear. Now, researchers
have found the amygdala may also be to blame for overeating. Cold Spring Harbor
Laboratory (CSHL) Professor Bo Li has discovered a group of neurons in the
amygdala that drives mice to eat fatty or sugary foods-even when they’re not
hungry. Therapeutics targeting these neurons could lead to
new treatments for obesity with minimal side effects.

Like most people, mice also
tend to find foods high in fat and sugar the tastiest. They may indulge in
these treats for pleasure, rather than for survival. The
neurons Li and his colleagues studied trigger this behavior, called hedonic
eating.

Metabolic processes in the body often reverse
any progress that’s made. Therapeutics can help increase the odds of successful
treatment, but many drugs have unwanted side effects. “The medications currently available to aid weight management can cause
significant side effects. So, a more targeted approach is needed,”the
authors said. “Identifying the brain
circuitry that controls eating is important for developing better treatment
options for people who struggle to control their weight.”

When the team switched off the specific
neurons, mice weren’t drawn to the fatty, sugary foods that had tempted them
before. “They just happily ate and
stayed healthy,” the rseearchers said.
“They not only stopped gaining weight, but also seemed to be much healthier
overall.” Switching these neurons off reduced overeating and protected
against obesity. It also boosted the animals’ physical activity, leading to
weight loss and better metabolic health.

Reference:

JOURNAL Bo Li et al,Nature
Neuroscience DOI 10.1038/s41593-022-01178-3

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