Caltech Scientists discover neurons that inhibit appetite
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Caltech professor has identified neurons in the brains of mice that control their appetite and eating behavior, a development that may provide new targets for therapeutic interventions to treat obesity, anorexia or other disorders in humans, the university announced today.
In research published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, David Anderson and his team used optogenetics, a technique that uses light to control neural activity to identify a subset of appetite-controlling neurons in a portion of a brain region called the amygdala.
The amygdala is known to be important for processing emotional reactions. The neurons are located in the lateral subdivision of the amygdala’s central nucleus.
Anderson and his team found that activating those specific neurons simply by shining a light upon them causes mice to abruptly stop eating their food.
Selective inhibition of the same neurons, in contrast, increases food intake, according to the researchers.
Additional investigation revealed that neurons activated by signals like fullness, sickness and unpalatable tastes — signals that normally inhibit feeding behavior — converge upon the identified neurons in the amygdala’s central nucleus.
This suggests that the neurons may act as a node in the signal relay pathway of appetite, delivering a stop-eating message to other brain centers that normally promote feeding, according to Anderson.
Those neurons may provide new targets for therapeutic interventions to treat obesity, anorexia or other disorders, he said.