Deconstruction of neural circuits for hunger
Scott Sternson, HHMI, Janelia Farm

What are the neural circuits that give rise to fundamental motivations such as hunger? We are investigating this poorly understood problem by examining the neural circuits of starvation-sensitive neurons that are capable of orchestrating voracious eating behavior. By using genetically engineered mice to access specific neuron populations that are the “nodes” in a neural circuit that mediates hunger, we can manipulate neuron function to map these circuits and then reverse engineer their function. This approach has enabled identification of new circuits, including connections that are related to human congenital overeating disorders such as Prader-Willi Syndrome and SIM1 haploinsufficiency. Further investigation of these interceptive sensory neurons and their circuits may also provide insight into motivational mechanisms underlying basic needs and desires required for survival.

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