Scientists have found the reason why we want to snack after meals

Special neurons are to blame for thisHave you noticed that sometimes, even if you have eaten a hearty meal, you soon want to snack on something? Psychologists at the University of California at Los Angeles have found the answer to the question of why this happens. DiscussScientists have found a reason why we want to snack after a meal© Parkview Health

Do you constantly snack, even after you've had a hearty meal? Perhaps you just have very active neurons associated with searching for food, and not a good appetite. Scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles have discovered a circuit in the brains of mice that makes them crave food and seek it out even when they are not hungry. When stimulated, these cells make animals want to eat something fatty and tasty (like chocolate) instead of a healthier food like carrots. People, by the way, have the same types of cells.

© Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-46430-5

The report, published in the journal Nature Communications, was the first to describe cells responsible for seeking food in a part of the mouse brainstem that is usually associated with panic rather than feeding. This area is called the periaqueductal gray (PAG). It performs approximately the same functions in humans and mice.

Activation of the entire PAG region causes a sharp panic reaction in both mice and humans. However, when only a specific cluster of PAG neurons (that is, vgat PAG cells) was stimulated, the rodents began to search for food.

When stimulated with laser light, vgat PAG cells became active and caused mice to rush after prey even if they had just eaten a large portion of food. This stimulation also encouraged the mouse to follow moving objects that were not food and to explore everything in the cage.

Fed mice with activated vgat PAG cells craved fatty food so much that they were willing to tolerate shaking their legs , to get food, which well-fed mice usually don’t do. On the contrary, when scientists introduced a virus into the animals' bodies to produce a protein that suppresses cell activity when exposed to light, the mice began to eat less, even if they were very hungry.

Like mice, humans have vgat PAG cells in their trunk brain It is possible that if these cells are overactive in a person, he may crave food more, even if he is not hungry, and get more pleasure from it.

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