A team of American and Italian neuroscientists has identified a cellular change in the brain that accompanies obesity. The findings could explain the body's tendency to maintain undesirable weight levels, rather than an ideal weight, and identify possible targets for pharmacological efforts to address obesity.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, identify a switch that occurs in neurons within the hypothalamus. The switch involves receptors that trigger or inhibit the release of the orexin A peptide, which stimulates the appetite, among other behaviors. In normal-weight mice, activation of this receptor decreases orexin A release. In obese mice, activation of this receptor stimulates orexin A release.