In what's posed to become a milestone in obesity science, researchers have discovered the specific brain circuity that results in overeating, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, reported Medical News Today on September 30.
The scientists who conducted the study at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine believe that their discovery offers exciting new insights into the causes of obesity and eating disorders. In addition, it provides guidance for those treating patients who suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating.
What they discovered: When they stimulated a specific area of the brain using fiber optic cables, lab mice experienced hunger. The cell type involved in the study is the gaba neuron, which are located in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, known as the BNST.
BNST is the area of the brain linked to emotion, eating, sexual behavior and aggression. And the key discovery: Even though the mice were fed with generous amounts of food before the experiment, they became ravenously hungry and craved high-fat foods when the BNST synapses were triggered.
"They would essentially eat up to half their daily caloric intake in about 20 minutes," said Garret Stuber, assistant professor in the Department of psychiatry and Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at UNC.
"This suggests that this BNST pathway could play a role in food consumption and pathological conditions such as binge eating."
The scientists emphasize that their study "underscores that obesity and other eating disorders have a neurological basis. With further study, we could figure out how to regulate the activity of cells in a specific region of the brain and develop treatments."
In addition, they noted that it is possible some individuals actually have "faulty wiring" in their BNST cells. In such cases, they would have problems recognizing when they are hungry or full, potentially resulting in eating disorders or obesity.