What if there was a way to look at individual brain cells and how they work. Not only how they work but the behavior that they cause? Neuroscience researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Stanford University are making truly remarkable advances with the help of state of the art technology and mice. They are able to view individual brain cells involved in overeating and compulsive/addictive behavior.
How does this work? For many years particular areas in the brain have been studied for how neurons talk to each other. In the Lateral Hypothalamus (LH), researchers are honing in on particular neurons that are responsible for the feeling of pleasure and this includes eating. Using optogenetics they found mice increased their eating when neurons were activated by light, but decreased when the neurons were inhibited. This has a lot to do with how calcium is handled by the neurons. Calcium imaging makes it possible to watch how neurons react, real time.
Since the LH is also involved with compulsive/addictive tendencies, (reward-related behavior) researchers are excited about the possibility of defining specific craving biology.
Read more at www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42015/title/Brain-Cells-Behind-Overeating/