According to research, the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls strong emotions like fear, may also be to blame for compulsive eating.
Professor Bo Li of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has found a set of neurons in the amygdala that cause mice to consume fatty or sweet foods even when they are not hungry. Therapeutics that target these neurons may result in novel, low-risk treatments for obesity. Mice, like the majority of us, favour diets that are heavy in fat and sugar. Instead of eating these foods to survive, they might do it for enjoyment.
This so-called hedonic feeding behaviour is triggered by the neurons Li and his colleagues researched. Li observes
“Though those neurons are still active, it can still push those animals to consume more, even if they are meant to stop eating since they are already full.”
Li asserts that almost no one who seeks to treat obesity is successful in long-term weight management. Any advancement is frequently undone by metabolic processes in the body. Therapeutics can enhance the likelihood that a treatment will be successful, however many medications have unfavourable side effects. “The drugs that are already on the market to help with weight management might have serious adverse effects. Therefore, a more focused strategy is required,” Li explains.
It’s critical to understand the brain circuitry that regulates eating in order to provide more effective treatments for those who have trouble managing their weight.
Mice were no longer lured to the fatty, sugary items that had previously tempted them after the research team turned off the particular neurons. Li explains, “They just joyfully ate and stayed healthy.” They stopped gaining weight and appeared to be generally much healthier. Turning off these neurons decreased binge eating and provided protection from obesity. It increased the animals’ physical activity as well, which helped them lose weight and improve their metabolic condition.
The neurons that cause hedonic eating are being studied by Li and his team for potential manipulation. The last stage, according to him, is to map out how these neurons react to various foods and determine what makes them so sensitive. He thinks that this partnership will result in fresh approaches to potent anti-obesity treatments.