Mapping Neurocircuits for Emotional Eating

Qingchun Tong, Ph.D.
Via Zoom
We have identified a specific brain neural pathway that co-regulates feeding and behavioral signs of stress and fear. Our research focuses on the hypothalamus, a brain region known to regulate feeding and body weight. Lesions of lateral hypothalamus (LH) and paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH), cause reduced body weight and obesity, respectively. We have identified differential roles of different components of the projections from LH to PVH. While the GABAergic component induces voracious feeding, the glutamatergic component induces self-grooming and jumping, indicative of stress and fear. We further PVH neurons project to the ventral part of the lateral septum (LS), a brain region known to regulate aggression and this projection strongly inhibits feeding and promotes behavioral signs of stress and fear. Lastly, the PVH projected LS neurons, which inhibited, promote massive obesity. Thus, the LH to PVH to LS circuit co-regulates feeding and emotion (stress and fear). The results help to understand the underlying mechanisms for overeating/obesity and anorexia/anxiety.