Scientists writing in yesterday’s issue of the journal Science detail the discovery of a brain circuit that appears to control a mouse’s eating behavior.
Specifically, the researchers say that, whenever this circuit is artificially stimulated, the rodents start gulping down impressive amounts of food, regardless of whether or not they feel hungry.
“Normally, there’s a population of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus that’s putting the brakes on eating.”
“But when you shut those cells down by stimulating this pathway, that releases the brake, and the animal starts to eat,” explains researcher Garret Stuber with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as cited by Live Science.
Furthermore, it appears that, by toying with this circuit, it is also possible to keep mice from eating even if they are pretty much starving and should therefore jump at the opportunity to chew on some food.
The brain circuit that the researchers have experimented with as part of this study sits in a part of the brain known to the scientific community as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis.
By the looks of it, it influences eating behavior by altering activity patterns in the lateral hypothalamus.
The researchers now wish to carry on further investigations and determine whether or not this circuit also influences eating patterns in humans.