- The melanin concentrating hormone does not affect how much animals like a food or how hard they are willing to work to get the food
- Researchers identified a brain circuit that acted on animals’ ability to stop themselves from trying to get food
- The findings could pave the way for therapeutics that can help people stick to their diet
Scientists have made a discovery that can potentially pave the way to the development of therapies that can address overeating.
In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers identified a special circuit in the brain that alters food impulsivity; offering hope for a therapeutics that can help prevent excessive food intake, weight gain and binge eating.
In experiments on rats, the researchers looked at a subset of brain cells that produce melanin concentrating hormone (MCH), a type of transmitter in the thalamus.
Earlier research has shown that elevating levels of MCH in the brain can increase food intake and the new study offers the first evidence that MCH also plays a role in impulsive behavior.
Study researcher Emily Noble, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, said that when they activated the subset of brain cells that produce MCH, they observed that the animals became more impulsive in their behavior around food.
In experiments that tested the impulsivity of the rats, the researchers found that MCH does not affect how much the animals liked food or how hard they were willing to work to get the food. Instead, the neural circuit acted on the animals’ ability to stop themselves from trying to get the food.
“Activating this specific pathway of MCH neurons increased impulsive behavior without affecting normal eating for caloric need or motivation to consume delicious food,” Noble said.
The researcher said that understanding this circuit that selectively affects food impulsivity opens the door to the possibility that one day, researchers will be able to develop therapeutics for overeating that can help people stick to their diet without reducing their normal appetite or making food less delicious.