Intellectual merit. How brain areas involved in thinking and memory influence eating is a question that has been largely ignored in neuroscience. This research will investigate how the hippocampus, a brain area involved in memory, affects eating behavior. The hypothesis that guides this project is that the memory of a recently eaten meal influences the timing of the next meal. The overall goal of this research will be to test whether the hippocampus forms a memory of a meal and inhibits eating during the period immediately after a meal. Experiments in Specific Aim 1 will answer the question, "Does the hippocampus inhibit meal initiation?" by testing whether temporarily disrupting neural activity in the hippocampus after rats have eaten a meal will decrease the time it takes them to start their next meal. Experiments in Specific Aim 2 will answer the question, "Do brain cells in the hippocampus form a memory of a meal?" by testing whether eating a meal increases hippocampal levels of activity-regulated cyotskeletal protein (Arc), which is a gene that is activated when memories are formed in the brain. These experiments will also begin to identify the meal-related stimuli that are necessary for the hippocampus to form a memory of a meal and inhibit meal onset.
Broader impacts. This research will significantly increase our understanding of the factors that influence the timing between two meals. Given that the interval between two meals determines the number of meals and is thus a major determinant of food intake, learning the role of the hippocampus in its control will make an important contribution to what is known about both energy regulation and hippocampal-dependent memory. The investigators devote significant effort to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students and will continue to mentor women and underrepresented minorities in scientific research. A portion of the funding will be used to provide a stipend for one graduate student researcher, summer funding for one promising undergraduate student researcher, and travel funds for both students to attend a national conference yearly. As part of this project, one of the investigators will serve as a faculty camp counselor and teacher at a summer Brain Camp and will teach about memory and eating. Finally, the investigators and their students will continue to actively disseminate their research findings through school visits, conference presentations, university seminars, and publication of manuscripts.