What if you had the superhuman ability to resist a plate of say, fresh cheese curds, or maybe a giant vat of banana pudding? The power to walk away from your favorite food could be within reach eventually, after scientists stumbled on a sort of appetite on/off switch in the brain of mice.
“I want one of those,” you’re thinking if you’re me and you can never say no to gelato. And while this seems like a pretty remarkable find, the New York Times explains that scientists weren’t even trying to make this discovery.
While trying to activate neurons in a mouse’s brain that would trigger fearful or anxious behavior, scientists noticed something entirely different.
As the mouse was busy chowing down on a piece of food, as one does, scientists shot a special kind of blue light into its amygdala, causing the mouse to stop eating and walk away, apparently disinterested, scientists wrote in Nature Neuroscience.
“This was an accidental discovery,” the senior scientist of the team said.
Such a finding could help shed light on eating disorders and how to treat them, scientists believe, as the small group of neurons involved could be an appetite-control hub that inhibit certain behaviors when they’re active, and have the opposite effect when they’re blocked, using another wavelength of light. Hence, the switch.
If we do have something similar in our brains, it brings up interesting connections between emotions and appetite, both of which are closely linked to the amygdala. That would certainly explain the tendency to “eat your feelings,” as they say, something that could possibly be turned off someday. Not that I ever want to not want cheese curds. Nope.
A Mouse Switch Turns Off Appetite [New York Times]