Neurons are deeply connected to the tendency to overindulge in response to external triggers, a problem faced by people addicted to food, alcohol and drugs
Rats that responded to cues for sugar with the speed and excitement of binge-eaters were less motivated for the treat when certain neurons were suppressed, researchers discovered.
“External cues — anything from a glimpse of powder that looks like cocaine or the jingle of an ice cream truck — can trigger a relapse or binge eating,” said Jocelyn M. Richard, a Johns Hopkins University post-doctoral fellow in psychological and brain sciences and the report’s lead author.
“Our findings show where in the brain this connection between environmental stimuli and the seeking of food or drugs is occurring.”
First researchers trained rats to realize that if they heard a certain sound, either a siren or staccato beeps, and a pushed a lever, they would get a drink of sugar water.
Then, as the rats performed the task, researchers monitored neurons within the ventral pallidum area of the rats’ brains, a subcortical structure near the base of the brain.