A TEAM of researchers that includes a faculty member at the University of Georgia has now identified a specific circuit in the brain that alters food impulsivity, creating the possibility scientists can someday develop therapeutics to address overeating.
The team’s findings were published recently in the journal Nature Communications.
Impulsivity, or responding without thinking about the consequences of an action, has been linked to excessive food intake, binge eating, weight gain and obesity, along with several
psychiatric disorders including drug addiction and excessive gambling.
Using a rat model, researchers focused on a subset of brain cells that produce a type of transmitter in the hypothalamus called melanin concentrating hormone (MCH).
Results indicated MCH doesn’t affect how much the animals liked the food or how hard they were willing to work for the food. Rather, the circuit acted on the animals’ inhibitory control, or their ability to stop themselves from trying to get the food. The researcher said,
activating this specific pathway of MCH neurons increased impulsive behavior without affecting normal eating for caloric need or motivation to consume delicious food,.
Understanding that this circuit, which selectively affects food impulsivity, exists opens the door to the possibility that one day we might be able to develop therapeutics for overeating that help people stick to a diet without reducing normal appetite or making delicious foods less delicious.”