Home Uncategorized Scientists have found the region of the brain that controls addictive overeating

Scientists have found the region of the brain that controls addictive overeating

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The neural circuit in our brains that causes us to compulsively
overeat and become addicted to sugar has been identified. And
researchers have found that they can target it in mice without
interrupting normal feeding behavior.

“Although obesity and Type 2
diabetes are major problems in our society, many treatments do not
tackle the primary cause: unhealthy eating habits,” one of the lead
researchers of the study, Kay Tye from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, said in a press release. 
“Our
findings are exciting because they raise the possibility that we could
develop a treatment that selectively curbs compulsive overeating without
altering healthy eating behaviour.”
Compulsive overeating is a reward-seeking behaviour, which means that
it’s similar to drug addiction. Because of this, Tye and her team
suspected that the region of the brain that controls uncontrollable
eating may be similar to the ones implicated in other addictive
behaviours. 
Specifically, they suspected a bunch of cells linking the lateral hypothalamus – the region of the brain involved in hunger – to the ventral segmental area – where the brain’s reward circuitry is located.
To
test whether this was the case, the researchers used optogenetics, a
technique where neurons are genetically modified so that they can either
be activated or inhibited when scientists shine different colored
lights on them.

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They found that, when the cell circuit in question
was activated, mice spent more time sticking their noses into a feeding
hole to receive a sugar treat, even when they were well-fed. They were
so obsessed with getting more treats that even being given an electric
shock to punish the behaviour didn’t stop them wanting more.
But
when the same pathway was inhibited in the brain, the mice stopped this
compulsive sugar-seeking behaviour. And, importantly, this didn’t stop
normal food consumption, which suggests that different neural circuits
control healthy eating and addictive eating.
The results have been published in the journal Cell, alongside a separate study that confirmed the role of these brain cells in compulsive overeating.
The
team believes that the addictive neural circuit may have arisen in our
evolutionary history make sure that our ancestors binged on anything
they could get while food was scarce.
“However, in our modern day
society, there is no scarcity of palatable foods, and high-sugar or
high-fat foods are often even more available than fresh produce or
proteins,” said Tye in the release. 
“We
have not yet adapted to a world where there is an overabundance of
sugar, so these circuits that drive us to stuff ourselves with sweets
are now serving to create a new health problem. The discovery of a
specific neural circuit underlying compulsive sugar consumption could
pave the way for the development of targeted drug therapies to
effectively treat this widespread problem.”
They’re now looking for ways they can switch it off.

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