Nutrient Stimulated Hormones and Neural Plasticity

May 2024 Council

Lead Division/Office


Point(s) of Contact

Brad Cooke, Ph.D.

Executive Summary

Two primary unanswered questions underlie the current obesity epidemic. The first is how the modern western food environment provokes unhealthy overconsumption and fat deposition despite multiple homeostatic regulatory systems that evolved to maintain a stable body weight. The second concerns what appear to be non-genetic transmission of maternal obesity and overconsumption to offspring, supporting a sudden exponential rise of metabolic disease throughout the population. New incretin receptor agonists are poised to revolutionize diabetes and obesity care through their effects on eating behavior, and thereby also provide powerful tools that give us a new window on how the brain is highjacked by the food environment, and how it particularly affects the developing brain and leads to unhealthy behaviors and metabolic responses. Given that incretin analog drugs are highly effective for a growing number of chronic metabolic, psychiatric, addiction, and neurodegenerative diseases, it is very likely that a large segment of our population will soon be treated with them. This emphasizes both the importance for incretins, and the imperative to work now to ultimately uncover the mechanisms of their effects on human development and biology. As an important first step, we will solicit investigator initiated R01 proposals that focus on molecular, cellular, network, and behavioral neuroscience to address the roles of incretin and related hormones on these two critically important questions.