Overeating? Your brain cells may signal ‘stop eating’

New York: Are you obese and still unable to control munching those gastronomical delights? Do not worry, scientists have identified brain cells that can send signals to stop over-eating, paving the way for potential new anti-obesity treatments.

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The study, conducted on mice, showed that when the cells fired and sent signals to other parts of the brain, the mice decreased the amount they ate in a day by about 25 percent.

“When the type of brain cells we discovered fire and send off signals, our laboratory mice stop eating soon after,” said Richard Huganir, director at the Johns Hopkins University in the US.

But switching off the satiety cells in the brain caused the mice to eat more, and double their weight in three weeks.

The findings, published by the journal Science, adds significant detail to the way brains tell animals when to stop eating and, if confirmed in humans, could lead to new tools for fighting obesity.

The team found the cells in a small brain region called the para-ventricular nucleus, which was already known to send and receive signals related to appetite and food intake.

The signals seem to tell the mice that they have had enough, Huganir noted.

A particular enzyme called OGT — a biological catalyst involved in many bodily functions, including insulin use and sugar — was found to play a key role in the process by stimulating synaptic connections — an electrical or chemical signal passed from a neuron to the other — between the cells.

When the gene for OGT was silenced, the mice ate more. Although they consumed the same number of meals as normal mice, they ate bigger portions.

Also, the absence of OGT interfered with the animals’ ability to sense when they were full, suggesting that, OGT helps maintain synapses.

“These mice don’t understand that they’ve had enough food, so they keep eating,” said Olof Lagerlof, graduate student from Johns Hopkins University.

“We believe we have found a new receiver of information that directly affects brain activity and feeding behaviour, and if our findings bear out in other animals, including people, they may advance the search for drugs or other means of controlling appetites,” Lagerlof suggested.

Healthy brain associated with healthy heart

New York, March 18 (IANS) Having more ideal cardiovascular health is linked with better brain processing speed and is more likely to prevent the decline in brain function that sometimes accompanies ageing, according to a study.

The researchers from the University of Miami and the Columbia University used the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple Seven” definition of cardiovascular health, which includes tobacco avoidance, ideal levels of weight, physical activity, healthy diet, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.

“Achieving the health metrics of Life’s Simple 7 is associated with a reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks, even among the elderly,” said study lead author Hannah Gardener from the University of Miami.

“The finding that they may also impact cognitive, or brain function underscores the importance of measuring, monitoring and controlling these seven factors by patients and physicians,” Gardener added.

At the beginning of the study, published recently in Journal of the American Heart Association, 1,033 participants were tested for memory, thinking and brain processing speed.

Brain processing speed measures how quickly a person is able to perform tasks that require focused attention. Approximately six years later, 722 participants repeated the cognitive testing, which allowed researchers to measure performance over time.

The researchers found that having more cardiovascular health factors was associated with less decline over time in processing speed, memory and executive functioning, which is associated with focusing, time management and other cognitive skills.

“In addition, further study is needed to identify the age ranges, or periods over the life course, during which cardiovascular health factors and behaviours may be most influential in determining late-life cognitive impairment, and how behavioural and health modifications may influence cognitive performance and mitigate decline over time,” Gardener said.

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