Monday, October 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:55 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

  • What was learned: Matthew Will, an MU assistant psychology professor, discovered an area of the brain that appears to control the over-consumption of high-fat foods. Prior research determined that opioids, pleasure chemicals in the brain that can cause euphoria, increase the intake of fat and sugar containing food by 300 percent when released into a brain region called the nucleus accumbens.
  • This type of over-consumption, or binge eating, is largely responsible for obesity in the United States. Will determined that activity in a specific region of the brain called the amygdala may allow this behavior to happen.
  • How it works: Will put different groups of rats into cages with a jar containing high-fat food. He then made inactive the basolateral amygdala, an area of the brain that affects emotion and motivation, and prevented the binge eating produced by the opioids.
  • Why it matters: Recent studies show 65 percent of Americans are either clinically obese or overweight. Understanding how networks in the brain control the desire for food is extremely important. This research demonstrates that a specific region of the brain may be responsible for feeding beyond the basic metabolic needs signaled by hunger.
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