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In lab experiments, Thomas Kash, PhD, the John R. Andrews Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, and colleagues discovered a specific network of cellular communication emanating from the emotion-processing region of the brain, motivating mice to keep eating tasty food even though their basic energy needs had been met.
The existence of this mammalian brain circuit, described in a paper in Neuron, might help explain why humans so often overeat in our modern environment of abundant and delicious fare. The circuit is a byproduct of evolution, when large calorie-rich meals were scarce, and so our brains were wired to devour as many calories as humanly possible because no one knew when the next super meal would come.
Circuit - Brain - Way - Something - Tastes
"This circuit seems to be the brain's way of telling you that if something tastes really good, then it's worth whatever price you're paying to get to it, so don't stop," Kash said.
Scientists in search of anti-obesity remedies have spent decades researching and targeting brain cells and circuits involved in ordinary, "homeostatic" feeding, which is triggered by hunger and keeps our energy level up. But this approach has had limited success. More recently, some scientists have been studying "hedonic" feeding -- the pleasure-driven eating of calorie-rich food that tends to go way beyond our strict energy needs.
Hedonic - Feeding - Humans - Adaptation - Ancient
Hedonic feeding is thought to reflect modern humans' lingering adaptation for ancient environments where famines were frequent. Perceiving calorie-rich food as particularly tasty and pleasurable, and bingeing on it whenever it was available, would have conferred a crucial survival advantage by storing up extra energy. Following that instinct now, in a time of plenty, can lead to obesity -- a condition affecting about 40 percent of adults in the United States -- and related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers.
"There's just so much calorically dense food...
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