This press release is available in French.
Fat Bastard's revelation "I eat because I'm depressed and I'm depressed because I eat" in the Austin Powers film series may be explained by sophisticated neuroscience research being undertaken by scientists affiliated with the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CR-CHUM) and the university's Faculty of Medicine. "In addition to causing obesity, rich foods can actually cause chemical reactions in the brain in a similar way to illicit drugs, ultimately leading to depression as the 'come-downs' take their toll," explain lead researcher, Dr. Stephanie Fulton. As is the case with drug addicts, a vicious cycle sets in where "food-highs" are used as a way to combat depression. "Data shows that obesity is associated with increased risk of developing depression, but we have very little understanding of the neural mechanisms and brain reward patterns that link the two," Fulton said. "We are demonstrating for the first time that the chronic consumption of palatable, high-fat diets has pro-depressive effects."
A molecule in the brain known as dopamine enables the brain to rewards us with good feelings, encouraging us to learn certain kinds of behaviour. This chemical is the same in humans as it is in mice and other animals. The research team feed mice different kinds of food and monitored how the diet affects the way the animals behave. Fulton and her colleagues use a variety of scientifically validated techniques to evaluate the relationship between rewarding mice with food and their resulting behaviour and emotions. The team is also contributing to the improvement of these techniques, such as the one demonstrated in the video. Later, the team actually looks at the brains of the mice to see how they have changed.
Mice that have been fed a higher-fat diet exhibit signs of being anxious, such as an avoidance of
|Contact: William Raillant-Clark|
University of Montreal