Revealing brain circuits underlying sensory processing, plasticity, and neuropsychiatric disease

Benjamin Arenkiel, Ph.D.
The Arenkiel Lab has a longstanding interest in identifying mechanisms that may be exploited towards repairing and/or replacing brain cells and their circuits. Stemming from this research, they have serendipitously identified a novel neural circuit that controls aspects of hunger, reward, and addiction through the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is produced by a small group of cells that reside deep in the basal forebrain. Notably, the release of acetylcholine from these cells suppresses appetite in mice, and mice with disabled cholinergic circuits eat excessively and rapidly become morbidly obese. More recently, the Arenkiel lab has learned that this same cholinergic basal forebrain circuit is dynamically regulated by diverse sensory input, and proper function of these circuits is critical for maintaining healthy eating habits and suppressing both anorexic and addictive-like behaviors.