Washington: Scientists have dissected a brain circuit that controls feeding and mediates the loss of appetite.The researchers also discovered potential therapeutic targets within the pathway. Their experimental results may be valuable for developing new treatments for a variety of eating disorders.These include unrelenting nausea, food aversions, and anorexia nervosa, a condition in which a person no longer wants to eat enough to maintain a normal weight.The senior author of the paper Dr. Richard D. Palmiter and his colleagues concentrated on a part of the brain, a relay centre called the parabrachial nucleus, because it is an important hub for integrating signals from several brain regions to modulate food intake.Nausea, as well as taste aversion or preferences, may originate from signals processed in the parabrachial nucleus.In this most recent study, the researchers discovered the type and location of brain cells that send signals that agitate the parabrachial nucleus and thereby squelch the ability to eat.They also demonstrate how these signals can be blocked to restore normal appetite and to ward off starvation.Earlier studies by Palmiter’s team and by Dr. Michael Schwartz’ team at the UW Center for Excellence in Diabetes and Obesity Research showed that certain nerve cells in the brain’s hypothalamus play a role in promoting feeding and weight gain. They do so by collating a variety of signals from the body. If these brain cells are destroyed, feeding stops. Meals will be refused and liquid food placed into the mouth will hardly be swallowed.
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