How brain helps suppress appetite
Washington: Researchers have identified a population of neurons that tell the brain to shut off appetite.
To identify these neurons, or cells that process and transmit information in the brain, scientists at the University of Washington first considered what makes an animal lose its appetite.
Nerves within the gut that are distressed or insulted send information to the brain through the vagus nerve. Appetite is suppressed when these messages activate specific neurons - ones that contain CGRP, (calcitonin gene-related peptide) in a region of the brain called the parabrachial nucleus.
In mouse trials, researchers used genetic techniques and viruses to introduce light-activatable proteins into CGRP neurons. Activation of these proteins excites the cells to transmit chemical signals to other regions of the brain.
When they activated the CGRP neurons with a laser, the hungry mice immediately lost their appetite and walked away from their liquid diet; when the laser was turned off, the mice resumed drinking the liquid diet.
"These results demonstrate that activation of the CGRP-expressing neurons regulates appetite. This is a nice example of how the brain responds to unfavourable conditions in the body, such as nausea caused by food poisoning," Richard Palmiter, UW professor of biochemistry and investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute said.
The study is published in the journal Nature.