Unique Original Articles » Neurons that lead to overeating, also drive a hunger for cocaine

Neurons that lead to overeating, also drive a hunger for cocaine

Author: RehabWiz

Recently published research from the Yale School of Medicine pinpointed an area of the brain responsible for controlling hunger. Interestingly enough, that same region is also responsible for driving non-food related behavior like novelty-seeking and drug addiction.

The research, administered by postdoctoral associate Marcelo O. Dietrich and colleagues Tamas L. Horvath and David W. Wallace, was published in Nature Neuroscience.

The brain’s pleasure circuits, located in the midbrain have come under increased scrutiny by neuroscientists looking to understand metabolic problems like diabetes and obesity, as well as potential applications for substance abuse.

“We found that increased appetite for food can actually be associated with decreased interest in novelty as well as in cocaine, and on the other hand less interest in food can predict increased interest in cocaine,” reported Dietrich.

Transgenic mice, that had their genome modified for academic purposes, were examined by Horvath and his team. One set had a signaling molecule knocked out that controls hunger-promoting neurons in the hypothalamus. The other set had their neurons enhanced selectively during development using diphtheria toxin. Non-invasive tests were then administered to measure how the mice reacted to novelty, anxiety, and cocaine.

“We found that animals that have less interest in food are more interested in novelty-seeking behaviors and drugs like cocaine,” said Horvath. “This suggests that there may be individuals with increased drive of the reward circuitry, but who are still leaning. This is a complex trait that arises from the activity of the basic feeding circuits during development, which then impacts the adult response to drugs and novelty in the environment.”

Horvath and his colleagues reported that the hypothalamus, which controls vital functions like body temperature, hunger, fatigue, thirst, and sleep, is important to developing higher brain function. The results of the research are likely to be of significant value to addiction treatment centers., in the near future.


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