Scientists find neuron that controls how much we eat
The prefrontal cortex of the brain may be able to help regulate appetite by having specific neurons "switched" on and off, according to a new study.
Scientists sought to find an explanation for previous studies that have found a link between the prefrontal cortex and appetite regulation, but have not been able to explain the relationship. In the recent study, researchers used mice to examine the role of neurons in the brain that receive dopamine—the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to perceive rewards and controls pleasure centers of the brain.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed that when the dopamine-receptor neurons in the prefrontal cortex were inhibited—or “switched off”—the mice ate less. When the neurons were switched on, the neurons caused the mice to eat more.
The study’s findings suggest that the brain regions associated with decision-making and emotions also regulate eating behaviors. The researchers are hopeful that the findings could lead to new treatments for obesity or eating disorders.