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US Scientists Identify Neuron to Control Hunger PangsIBTimes

When obesity and overweight issues have become the fifth leading causes of death in the world (World Health Organisation), here comes news that could bring some relief.

Scientists at University of North Carolina have found that activating a cluster of neurons can lead to regular eating habits, thus controlling the weight gain in overweight and obese people.

The research paper titled "The Inhibitory Circuit Architecture of the Lateral Hypothalamus Orchestrates Feeding" was published in journal Science by Joshua H. Jennings, Giorgio Rizzi, Alice M. Stamatakis, Randall L. Ung1 and Garret D. Stuber of Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina.  

The team developed an optogenetic switch to control the cluster of neurons in the area of brain (bed nucleus of the stria terminalis-BNST) known for fear and anxiety. Neurons in this region project themselves mainly in the lateral hypothalamus. The switch can turn off these projections in hypothalamus thus controlling the eating habits.

The lateral hypothalamus, a region in brain is associated with regulating eating. "Since activating of clusters of neurons associated with this region regulated eating habits we hypothise that dysfunction of this circuit drives pathological eating habits in human beings" TheScientist quoted Garrett Stuber, the lead author of the paper.

The BNST neurons when active turns off the neurons in the hypothalamus. The switch was used in mice where the scientists stimulated the BNST neurons, which inactivated the neurons in the hypothalamus. This resulted in lesser intake of food, the study showed.

In another experiment conducted by these researchers, hungry mice were stimulated in similar manner which led to avoiding of the food.

The scientists believe that the research will help reveal the pathways in the brain that regulate human feeding patterns, which could help to better treat eating disorders including anorexia and overeating, ScienceNews quoted Stuber.