The feeling of hunger pushes us towards the search for food and we are not aware of the neural circuits that are activated in our brain during this process. For the first time, a study in rats shows how hunger hormones have a direct effect on hippocampal activity during these times. The results may contribute to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.
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Every living being should be able to control its feeding behavior according to its need. Consuming food when you are already full uses up time and energy that could be used for other, more important tasks. Eating too much can also cause illness. Conversely, the inability to feel the need for food (or hunger) can lead to undernutrition and subsequent lack of fitness. Fortunately, there is a system in our brain that regulates these mechanisms, with the main players being the hippocampus and ghrelin, a hunger hormone produced in the gut.
It was the brain activity in the lower (ventral) part of the hippocampus that interested scientists. This is a part of the brain that helps us form and use memories to guide our behavior based on context. But how internal contexts, such as hunger, affect circuits in the hippocampus was not known.
A new study led by researchers fromUniversity College London Throws light on the mechanisms involved. We found that the part of the brain important for decision making is surprisingly sensitive to the levels of hunger hormones produced in our gut, which we believe helps our brain contextualize our food choices .Report of the authors of the research published in the journal neuron, In this study, we investigated the role of the ventral hippocampus during feeding behavior under different hunger states in rats. ,
What the study shows
For the experiment, “hungry” and “satisfied” rats were placed near food. All rats spent time investigating the food, but only the hungry rats began to eat. Additionally, the researchers studied the mice’s neuronal activity using brain imaging.
They found that when animals looked for food, the activity of a subset of brain cells in the ventral hippocampus increased and that this activity prevented the animals from eating. In contrast, if the rat was hungry, neuronal activity in this region decreased, promoting food intake. The researchers found that this corresponded to higher levels of ghrelin circulating in the blood. , These experiences define a ghrelin-sensitive hippocampal circuit that informs decisions to eat based on internal statethey write. The seahorse curbs the animal’s eating instincts when it finds food, to ensure that the animal does not overeat. But if the animal is really hungry, the hormones will tell the brain to turn off the brakes, so the animal eats. ,
Application for treatment of eating disorders
The results found can be used in the clinic, contributing to research on the mechanisms of eating disorders. People affected with these disorders may have disturbances in the braking system.
On the other hand, scientists are continuing their research by investigating whether hunger can affect learning or memory by seeing what non-food-specific tasks rats perform based on their hunger.