While seeking out and consuming caloric substances is essential for survival, specific brain circuits that control adaptive food seeking as well as consumption, likely become dysregulated to promote a variety of maladaptive behaviors such as addiction and binge eating. Thus, experiments designed to further understand the specific neural circuit components that control food consumption and reinforcement are of critical importance for identifying important novel targets for the development of future treatments for eating disorders. Here we propose to study the precise neural circuits of the lateral hypothalamus that regulate natural reward seeking and consumption. We plan to map the precise circuit connectivity and function between genetically defined neuronal populations of the lateral hypothalamus and afferent and efferent structures, as well to characterize the neuronal activity patterns within these circuits during reward seeking and consumption behaviors. We will also test of the necessity and sufficiency of precise circuit elements to these processes. Collectively, these experiments will elucidate the precise neural circuits that interface the laterl hypothalamus with other brain structure to orchestrate reward processing. These experiments will likely uncover many novel circuits critical for reward seeking and consumption to target for future therapeutic interventions for neuropsychiatric disorders such as addiction and depression, as well eating disorders and obesity.
Psychiatric and neurological diseases and disorders have a tremendous impact on society. Despite improved diagnosis and treatment, further advancement is significantly hindered by a lack of understanding how alterations in neural circuit function leads to the development and expression of disease states. The research directions outlined in this proposal will characterize the function of key neural circuits that are involved in psychiatri disease such as substance abuse disorders and eating disorders. We aim to study these neural circuit elements in order to identify potentially novel therapeutic targets for the treatment neuropsychiatric disorders.
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