Nav: Home

Brain induces preference for caloric food for energy storage

March 24, 2016

Different brain circuits are invoked by the pleasure we derive from eating sweet foods and the calories they supply.

Given the choice between eating something caloric with an unpleasant taste and more palatable food with no calories, some vertebrates may choose the former, prioritizing energy to assure their survival.

This finding comes from a study performed by researchers at Yale University in the United States, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of São Paulo's Biomedical Science Institute (ICB-USP) and the Federal University of the ABC's Center for Mathematics, Computation & Cognition (CMCC-UFABC) in Brazil.

Tatiana Lima Ferreira, a researcher at CMCC-UFABC on the team responsible for the study, observed that different neural circuits in the same brain region were involved in the perception of the sensation of pleasure produced by eating sweet food and encoding the calories it supplies.

Through a series of experiments with mice, the researchers found that the pleasure derived from eating, as well as the caloric value and nutrition of food, invokes neural circuits in the striatum, a subcortical part of the forebrain and a major portion of the basal ganglia.

However, different neural circuits in the same brain region are involved in these two processes. Circuits in the ventral striatum are responsible for the perception of pleasure or reward (hedonia) derived from food with a sweet taste, whereas circuits in the dorsal striatum recognize the caloric and nutritional value of sweet food.

In previous studies, the Yale research group had already reported that circuits in the striatum and the dopaminergic neurons that enervate this brain region could be involved in recognizing nutritional value and taste," Ferreira said. Striatal dopaminergic neurons express dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

But until now it wasn't known whether the circuits in the dorsal and ventral parts of the striatum were equally involved in recognizing these two characteristics.

To determine which neural circuits in the striatum are involved in the perception of these specific attributes of food, the researchers performed an experiment designed to quantify the expression of dopamine in the striata of mice after exposure to sweet substances with and without calories.

The mice licked the spout of a sipper-bottle containing sweetener and received stomach injections of solutions containing sugar (D-glucose) or an equal amount of non-caloric sweetener (sucralose).

The results of the experiment showed that the amount of dopamine released by the ventral striatum increased indiscriminately in response to the intake of both sugar and sweetener.

According the researcher, the neural circuits in the ventral striatum don't distinguish between caloric and non-caloric ingestion. Dopamine is expressed by this brain region in response to mere palatability.

The researchers also evaluated the effect of an unpalatable but caloric substance on the expression of dopamine in these brain regions of mice. To this end, they altered the taste of the sweetener in the sipper by adding a small amount of denatonium benzoate, a bitter compound commonly used as an aversive agent. At the same time, the mice received intragastric infusions of sugar (glucose).

This alteration in the taste of the sweetener inhibited dopamine release in the ventral striatum induced by the intragastric sugar infusion, but the amount of dopamine expressed in the dorsal striatum increased. The conclusion may be that if you have a "sweet tooth", this is due to your brain's craving for calories rather than an addiction to sweetness as such.

Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo

Related Dopamine Articles:

Brain scans show dopamine levels fall during migraine attacks
Using PET scans of the brain, University of Michigan researchers showed that dopamine falls and fluctuates at different times during a migraine headache.
Hard choices? Ask your brain's dopamine
Salk researchers learn how dopamine governs ongoing decisions, yielding insights into Parkinson's, drug addiction.
Alcoholism may be caused by dynamical dopamine imbalance
Researchers from the Higher School of Economics, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, Indiana University and the Russian Academy of Sciences Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Applied Physics have identified potential alcoholism mechanisms, associated with altered dopaminergic neuron response to complex dynamics of prefrontal cortex neurones affecting dopamine release.
Precise technique tracks dopamine in the brain
MIT researchers have devised a way to measure dopamine in the brain much more precisely than previously possible, which should allow scientists to gain insight into dopamine's roles in learning, memory, and emotion.
Neurotrophic factor GDNF is an important regulator of dopamine neurons in the brain
New research results are expanding our understanding of the physiological role of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor GDNF in the function of the brain's dopamine systems.
Sensory stimuli control dopamine in the brain
In their study of fish larvae, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Driever and his team of neurobiologists at the University of Freiburg discovered that a group of nerve cells in the forebrain release the neurotransmitter dopamine when activated by tactile or certain visual stimuli.
Sensory stimuli control dopamine in the brain
Type and intensity of stimuli control the activity of nerve cells that release the neurotransmitter dopamine.
The emergence of a new dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia
Biological Psychiatry presents a special issue, 'The Dopamine Hypothesis of Schizophrenia,' dedicated to recent advances in understanding the role of dopamine signaling in schizophrenia.
Breakthrough in the production of dopamine neurons for Parkinson's disease
Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, are rapidly moving towards the first ever transplantations of embryonic stem cell derived dopamine neurons in persons with Parkinson's disease.
Activating dopamine neurons could turn off binge-like eating behavior
While binge eating affects about 10 percent of adults in the United States, the neurobiological basis of the disease is unclear.

Related Dopamine Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...