(July 23, 2015) The brain’s effect on other parts of the body has been well established. Now, a group that includes two University of Florida Health researchers has found that it’s a two-way street: Body fat can send a signal that affects the way the brain deals with stress and metabolism.
While the exact nature of those signals remains a mystery, researchers say simply knowing such a pathway exists and learning more about it could help break a vicious cycle: Stress causes a desire to eat more, which can lead to obesity. And too much extra fat can impair the body’s ability to send a signal to the brain to shut off the stress response.
The findings are important and unique because they show that it’s not simply the brain that drives the way the body responds to stress, said James Herman, Ph.D., a co-author of the paper and a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati,.
“It moved our understanding of stress control to include other parts of the body. Before this, everyone thought that the regulation of stress was mainly due to the brain. It’s not just in the brain. This study suggests that stress regulation occurs on a much larger scale, including body systems controlling metabolism, such as fat,” Herman said.
The findings, which reveal a novel fat-to-brain feedback network, were published in the June edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology by a group that included Annette D. de Kloet, Ph.D., a research assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of physiology and functional genomics, and Eric Krause, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UF College of Pharmacy’s department of pharmacodynamics.