Scientists Discover a New Hunger-Suppressing Target in the Cerebellum of the Brain.


Scientists Discover a New Hunger-Suppressing Target in the Cerebellum of the Brain.

J. Nicholas Betley of the School of Arts and Sciences led a research team that discovered an entirely new way for the brain to signal satiety after eating. The findings point to a new target for treatments that could significantly reduce overeating.

Prader Willi syndrome is a hereditary condition characterized by an insatiable desire. Even after a substantial meal, they never feel satisfied. Overeating and obesity can be life-threatening as a result.

According to a new study, their continuous hunger is due to disrupted signals in the cerebellum, a brain region that also controls motor control and learning. J. Nicholas Betley, an assistant professor of biology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, and Albert I. Chen, an associate professor at the Scintillion Institute in San Diego, led an international research team of 12 institutions that used clues from Prader Willi patients to guide investigations in mice that uncovered a subset of cerebellar neurons that signals satiation after eating.

According to Betley, the extent of the effect when the researchers triggered these neurons was “enormous.” The mice ate exactly as frequently as normal mice, but each meal was 50-75 percent less.

“This was incredible,” he says. “It was so incredible that I believed it had to be a mistake.” Aloysius Low, a postdoctoral researcher in Betley’s lab and the study’s first author, was inspired to do a number of additional studies to prove the effect was real. They were persuaded over the course of roughly a year.

“It’s amazing that we can still identify brain areas that are critical for basic survival behaviors that we hadn’t previously implicated,” Betley says. “And these brain regions play a vital role in a variety of ways.” The findings, published in the journal Nature, imply that neurons in the cerebellum’s anterior deep cerebellar nuclei (aDCN) assist animals in regulating their meal size.

Betley’s lab has uncovered a range of neural circuits relevant to how the brain regulates food intake since its inception. The hindbrain and hypothalamus, as well as other research, have been implicated in this control. “However, we also know that medicines that target the hypothalamus and hindbrain aren’t particularly effective in the treatment of obesity,” Betley says.

Roscoe Brady of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Mark Halko of McLean Hospital are partners who investigate the human cerebellum… Summary of the latest news from Brinkwire.


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