The rising incidence of obesity is a huge health concern in the United States, is associated with a number of related health problems including diabetes and heart disease and is an enormous economic burden through associated healthcare costs. Obesity is a multifactorial disease, and environmental factors play a large role in motivating of feeding behavior. Although it is known that environmental cues can potentiate feeding through Pavlovian mechanisms, the neural circuitry underlying this phenomenon has not yet been systematically analyzed. This proposal seeks to identify this neural circuitry using a conditioned cue- induced feeding (CIF) task. The first specific aim is to characterize the brain regions involved during cue- induced feeding using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and immediate early gene (IEG) mapping. The second specific aim is to identify the genetic identity of activated neurons and to optogenetically and chemogenetically silence and/or activate those neurons. The research described here will shed light on the neural circuitry underlying feeding behaviors that lead to obesity and may provide entry points for potential therapeutics.
Obesity is a major public health concern in the United States that affects one third of adults and leads to related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Although it is known that environmental cues can lead to an increase in eating past metabolic needs, the neural circuitry underlying this effect has not been well defined. The aim of this research proposal is to identify this neural circuitry in order to enhance the scientific understanding of the neurobiology of obesity and provide potential molecular targets for therapeutic intervention.