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A possible flip switch for binge-eating
June 4, 2017, 5:08 pm

Researchers have identified a subgroup of neurons in the mouse brain that, upon activation, immediately prompt binge-like eating. Furthermore, repeated stimulation of these neurons over time caused the mice to gain weight. The zonaincerta (ZI) is a relatively understudied part of the brain.

Intriguingly, patients receiving deep brain stimulation of the subthalamus, which includes the ZI, for the treatment of movement disorders can exhibit characteristics of binge eating. To explore this phenomenon in greater detail, Xiaobing Zhang and Anthony N. van den Pol optogeneticallylabelled GABA neurons in the ZIs of mice.

Researchers found that within ten minutes of continuous stimulation of neurons in the ZI, mice rapidly consumed 35 percent of their daily high-fat food store, meant to be eaten over a 24-hour period.

The researchers also found that a hormone which signals a reduced energy state in the gut, excited neurons in ZI and that just five minutes of stimulation every three hours over a period of two weeks, resulted in the mice increasing their food intake and gaining weight. However, once the stimulation was withdrawn the mice showed a significantly reduced food intake compared with that of controls.

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