Apr 5, 2024

Craving Snacks After a Meal? It might be Food-Seeking Neurons, Not an Overactive Appetite

Posted by in categories: food, neuroscience

A new study has shown that food-seeking cells exist in a part of a mouse’s brain usually associated with panic — but not with feeding. Activating a selective cluster of these cells kicked mice into ‘hot pursuit’ of live and non-prey food, and showed a craving for fatty foods intense enough that the mice endured foot shocks to get them, something full mice normally would not do. If true in humans, who also carry these cells, the findings could help address the circuit that can circumvent the normal hunger pressures of ‘how, what and when to eat.’

People who find themselves rummaging around in the refrigerator for a snack not long after they’ve eaten a filling meal might have overactive food-seeking neurons, not an overactive appetite.

UCLA psychologists have discovered a circuit in the brain of mice that makes them crave food and seek it out, even when they are not hungry. When stimulated, this cluster of cells propels mice to forage vigorously and to prefer fatty and pleasurable foods like chocolate over healthier foods like carrots.

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