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Scientists pinpoint neurons in the brain that control your decision to eat

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes pick up your fork to eat a cookie, but then accidentally drop it and walk away.

Scripps Researchers have identified a group of neurons in the parasubthalamic nucleus (PSTN) that play a critical role in controlling when an animal decides to take its first bite of food.

This new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, sheds new light on the complex neural mechanisms that control eating behaviors.

The research team, led by Dr. Jeff Dunning and Dr. Candice Contet, used innovative techniques to manipulate specific PSTN cells in mice that become active during binge eating episodes. By activating these neurons, they observed significant changes in the animals’ eating and drinking behaviors.

Researchers believe that similar mechanisms may be involved in the loss of control. (Photo: Getty)

Surprisingly, when the researchers turned on this ensemble of PSTN cells, hungry mice were much slower to start eating but faster to drink water. This finding suggests that these neurons control the early stages of hunger-driven decision-making, even before eating occurs.

Further investigation revealed that different subsets of PSTN cells were responsible for different effects, including delayed eating, accelerated drinking, and increased consumption of sweet foods. This complex combination of functions challenges previous understanding of the role of the PSTN in regulating food intake.

The study’s findings may have important implications for understanding and treating eating disorders characterized by impaired control over the initiation of feeding.

In addition, the researchers believe that similar mechanisms may be involved in the loss of control over the consumption of addictive substances.

This research not only advances our understanding of the neural basis of eating behaviors but also opens new avenues to explore the brain’s role in decision-making processes related to food and other rewarding stimuli.

Published by:

Sibu Kumar Tripathi

Published on:

11 July 2024

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