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Obesity predisposition traced to the brain's reward system
Date:7/29/2008

als have reduced central dopamine receptors." He speculates that an attenuated dopamine signal may interfere with satiation, leading to overeating.

Pothos and colleagues conducted their research using obesity-prone and obesity-resistant rats. Adult obesity-prone rats consumed more food and were 20% heavier than obesity-resistant rats.

The researchers measured electrically-evoked dopamine release from nerve terminals. "We also measured regulators of dopamine synthesis and release in midbrain dopamine pathways," explains Brenda Geiger, first author and graduate student in the pharmacology and experimental therapeutics department at TUSM. "Our molecular analysis suggests that the central dopamine deficits are most likely caused by reduced expression of the genes encoding two proteins, one that is involved in dopamine synthesis, and another that is a transporter responsible for packaging dopamine into vesicles from which it is later released upon stimulation."

"Obesity has so far been approached mostly as a metabolic rather than as an addictive disorder; and obesity research has primarily focused on brain systems that regulate body weight through the maintenance of energy balance. The current study challenges this approach by focusing on brain pathways implicated in pleasure and reward. These pathways could override energy balance and induce hyperphagia and obesity by altering the reward value of food, particularly palatable high-energy food, very early in life," says Pothos, who is the study's corresponding and senior author.

According to Gerald Weissmann, MD, editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, "Now we know why so many people stay addicted to food: it fuels the mid-brain pleasure machinery. We eat not only for nourishment, but also for pleasure. This study provides the molecular link between eating and mental health." The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org) is published by the
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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
617-636-6586
Tufts University, Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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