“Switch” discovered in the brain of mice that enables and disables hunger

Usually, stress is considered as one of the factors that lead to gaining weight because it is linked to a greater desire for hunger. However, a group of researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center found that by increasing the stress levels in the brain circuits of mice it is possible to decrease the desire to eat by the rodents themselves.

Such a discovery could be useful in particular for those people subjected to anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder for which they avoid food or eat very small amounts. As Qingchun Tong, senior author of the study and professor at McGovern Medical School of UTHealth, explains, researchers identified a part of the brain in mice “that controls the impact of eating-related emotions.”

The same researchers think they are the first to have demonstrated the existence of this neurocircuit that regulates both stress and hunger. This neurocircuit connects two parts of the brain in mice, the paraventricular hypothalamus and the ventral lateral septum. The first is an area linked to food, the second is an emotional area.

The same neurocircuit seems to act as an on / off switch. Activating it, there was an increase in anxiety and stress and in parallel a decrease in appetite. By turning it off, anxiety and stress decreased and hunger increased.