Appetite control can be “rewired” in brain
A group of brain cells has the ability to control and manipulate a person’s appetite well into adulthood, according to a study by researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K.
Until this study, most experts believed that appetite control was housed in nerve cells within the brain. Nerve cells are generated during an embryo’s development in the womb and cannot be altered, which led experts to believe that a person’s appetite is set at birth.
The new findings suggest that each person’s appetite is much more malleable than previously thought. The study looked at a group of brain cells called tanycytes in rodents and found that they produce neurons that specifically regulate appetite. Not only that, some of the cells added neurons to the appetite-regulatory circuitry of the mice’s brain after birth and into adulthood, meaning that the appetite of the mouse could indeed be changed over time.
It will take five to 10 years to determine how the findings for animals translate for humans. But the researchers said that what they learned could eventually lead to treating obesity by altering the brain’s appetite system and helping patients eat less.