Hunger is undoubtedly a very important mechanism in all animals including humans, but every extreme such as “too much” or “too little” food may lead to negative scenarios in everyone’s life and health in particular.
In a modern life, it’s no longer a secret that obesity surely opens the door to a variety of conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some mental diseases and many other problems that impair one’s quality of life.
It’s also not a secret that the brain mechanisms which involved in a feeling of hunger or fullness are explicitly complex and require more attention from scientists in order to be well understood.
On the other hand, modern neuroscience makes more and more steps closer to reveal mechanisms which can help people suffering from obesity or related weight loss problems in the nearest future.
A latest study performed by researchers from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom shows that the processes triggered within the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) are directly connected to obesity/hunger regulation in mice.
When the scientists were toggling VMH areas “on” and “off” they discovered a group of neurons which is now known as SF1.
SF1, in fact, acts as a “switch” for turning “on” and “off” a mechanism of hunger control.
Basically, this particular group of neurons is slightly active when an animal approaches food and highly active when it actively searches for food.
Also when SF1 is activated an animal’s brain is turned into “defensive” mode which not only does help an animal to find food but also supports its environmental research abilities.
When Dominic Withers and his team gave the mice drugs which increased an activity in their SF1 neurons, the animals were less likely to want food.
Triggering down SF1 activity was affecting the anxiety level (the mice became less stressful) but it also made them eat more and store more fat.
“That activity in this small population of brain cells acutely changes food intake. That hadn’t been shown before.”
Withers and his team assumes that administering drugs which target SF1 activity can bring significant results in helping people with fighting off weight problems more effectively comparing to the existing drugs.
Of course, such practices must be thoroughly studied before applied to humans since there is a big chance to create unintended adverse effects.
But despite that, a combination of the approach from this study with other modern neuroscience technologies can surely be revolutionary in the future.
“At the moment we’re only in the foothills of discovering how the brain works, particularly the appetite regulatory circuits. But when you start combining these new tools in the lab, we’re really moving into a revolution in brain science.”