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Newly identified brain circuit could be target for treating obesity

Nerve cells that control overeating are distinct from those active in normal feeding, study shows

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12:00pm, January 29, 2015
neurons in the lateral hypothalamus

WELL CONNECTED  Neurons (green) in the lateral hypothalamus connect with those in the ventral tegmental area of mice’s brains to contribute to compulsive sugar consumption. 

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Manipulating specific sets of brain cells can quash a mouse’s overindulgence of sugar.

The cells are part of a previously unknown brain circuit that controls compulsive sugar consumption in mice, researchers report in the Jan. 29 Cell. This circuit appears to be distinct from the one that controls normal eating, suggesting that it could be a target for treating obesity caused by overeating in humans.

“One of the biggest challenges with treating obesity that comes with compulsive overeating disorder is that most treatments are just a Band-Aid, treating the symptoms instead of the core problems,” says MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye. “The real underlying problems are the cravings that lead to compulsive eating and the behavior of compulsive overeating itself.”

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