BOSTON Controlling body weight is a complicated process, as any frustrated dieter might attest. But as scientists continue to investigate the brain's intricate neurocircuitry and its role in maintaining energy balance, they are forming a clearer picture of the myriad events that lead to weight gain and weight loss.
In the August 10 on-line issue of Nature Neuroscience, a study led by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) identifies another piece of this complex puzzle, demonstrating that the neurotransmitter GABA --one of the master communicators among neurons plays a role in controlling energy balance.
"Body weight maintenance is made up of three basic stages," explains the paper's senior author Bradford Lowell, MD, PhD, an investigator in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC whose laboratory is working to identify the specific neurocircuits responsible for controlling food intake and/or energy through functional neuroanatomical mapping studies.
"In the first stage, the brain receives sensory input from the body [including information provided by circulating hormones such as leptin and ghrelin and from fuels such as glucose and fatty acids]," says Lowell, who is also a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
In the second stage, he adds, the brain integrates this sensory information with cues it has received from the environment (such as aromas and other enticements) along with information gathered from the organism's emotional state. Then, in the final stage, the brain's neurocircuitry takes over, enabling the brain to make appropriate alterations in food intake and energy expenditure in order to maintain energy balance and prevent weight gain and obesity.
Previous work had primarily focused on identifying the neuropeptides involved in this process. And indeed, this group of neurotransmitters often proves essential to maintaining energy balance
|Contact: Bonnie Prescott|
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center