U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Appetite-regulating neural pathway identified

A team including NIDDK researchers discovered a neural circuit that controls appetite in the brains of mice. Using a wide array of multidisciplinary techniques, the team found that neurons interacting with a specific receptor in a part of the brain called the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and the signals of those neurons to another part of the brain – the lateral parabrachial nucleus – regulate food consumption. Temporarily switching off these neurons in mice that are full makes the mice eat as though they were hungry, while turning them on reduces food consumption in hungry mice as though they were full. Activation of this same satiety-promoting circuit in the absence of food alleviates the unpleasant physical sensations associated with hunger. The findings suggest a potential research approach to treat people with obesity, and could set the foundation for development of a drug to reduce both food consumption and the disagreeable sensation of hunger.

Garfield AS, Li C, Madara JC, Shah BP, Webber E, Steger JS, Campbell JN, Gavrilova O, Lee CE, Olson DP, Elmquist JK, Tannous BA, Krashes MJ, Lowell BB. A neural basis for melanocortin-4 receptor regulated appetite. Nature Neuroscience 2015 April; 10.