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You’d be forgiven for thinking that every last bit of your body played a role in hunger. But no…apparently it’s all the work of one very, VERY tiny area of the brain. Which technically speaking could be hugely beneficial, as having tracked down the brain’s On/Off switch for hunger, scientists now believe it could be used as a weapon in the global war on obesity.
Whether or not an individual has the ability to feel full and satisfied may be pre-programmed, with researchers having identified one single protein that appears to control appetite.
By gaining control of the protein, it may one day be possible to simply ‘switch off’ hunger to prevent overeating.
“When the type of brain cell we discovered fires and sends off signals, our laboratory mice stop eating soon after,” says Richard Huganir, director of the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where the study was carried out.
“The signals seem to tell the mice they’ve had enough.”
Huganir and graduate student Olof Lagerlöf found that when the enzyme was removed or absent from the brains of laboratory mice, they increased their eating habits so vastly that their body fat levels increased up to 300% three weeks.
“These mice don’t understand that they’ve had enough food, so they keep eating,” says Lagerlöf.
“There are still many things about this system that we don’t know,” added Lagerlöf.
“But we think that glucose works with OGT in these cells to control ‘portion size’ for the mice. We believe we have found a new receiver of information that directly affects brain activity and feeding behavior, and if our findings bear out in other animals, including people, they may advance the search for drugs or other means of controlling appetites.”
It was also found that the same theory worked in reverse. When the same area of the brain was stimulated by the researchers, the mice summarily increased their food intake by an average of 25%.