A new study has shown that a hunger hormone produced in the gut can directly influence a decision-making area of the brain. This study investigates how hunger hormones impact neural activity and decision-making processes.
The study, led by researchers from the University College of London, shows that hunger hormones can directly impact the brain’s hippocampus and influence food-related decision-making. The study conducted on mice demonstrates that a hunger hormone produced in the gut can affect a decision-making part of the brain to drive its behaviour. The findings were published in the journal Neuron.
According to the researchers, this is the first study that shows how hunger hormones can directly impact the activity of the brain’s hippocampus when an animal is thinking about food. "We all know our decisions can be deeply influenced by our hunger, as food has a different meaning depending on whether we are hungry or full," lead author Dr Andrew MacAskill said in a press statement.
The researchers found that a part of the brain that is important for decision-making is sensitive to the levels of hunger hormones produced in the gut, which help the brain contextualise eating choices. According to Press Trust of India, the findings showed that activity in a subset of brain cells in the ventral hippocampus increased when the animal approached food, and this inhibited it from eating. However, if the animal was hungry, there was less neural activity in this area, and hence, the hippocampus did not it from eating.
“Being able to make decisions based on how hungry we are is very important. If this goes wrong it can lead to serious health problems. We hope that by improving our understanding of how this works in the brain, we might be able to aid in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders,” first author Ryan Wee said in a statement.
The study explores the role of the brain in contextualizing eating choices and the findings are relevant to eating disorders and mental health. Now, the scientists are expanding this research to understand whether hunger can impact learning or memory.