Molecular System Determines Weight and Energy Levels

July 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

A Yale University study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, has revealed a cellular system, stemming from the brain, that controls weight, energy levels, and how much we eat. This group of cells is located in the hypothalamus region of the brain, and they are able to regulate these weight and energy functions by instigating through the nervous system.

The hypothalamus has long been identified as the area of the brain responsible for controlling energy levels. Melanin-Concentrating Hormone (MCH) is a hypothalamic neuron that controls an organism’s food intake and determines energy levels. Scientists are still probing this neuron’s role in these functions. Previous tests on MCH have revealed that it causes test subjects to eat more, sleep more, and have generally less energy.

Contrarily, Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone (TRH), another hypothalamic neuron, impels an organism to eat less, causing a reduction in body mass, as well as increasing physical activity levels. TRH is an excitatory neurotransmitter, but acts as an inhibitor to MCH. During the study, THR only seemed to inhibit MCH cells by increasing inhibitory synaptic signals. It had little to no effect on other types of neurons involved in appetite, energy, and sleep functions.

The Yale University study revealed that these two neurons work in opposition to maintain a balance in an organism. Therefore both of these neurons are imperative for a healthy balance of hormones. When these hormones are not in equilibrium, an organism is unable to maintain a healthy weight. The study’s senior author Anthony van den Pol, professor of neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine said, “That these two types of neurons interact at the synaptic level gives us clues as to how the brain controls the amount of food we eat, and how much we sleep.”

This study bolsters previous findings so as to conclude that hormones play a principal role in regulating appetite, energy, fatigue, and, by extension, weight regulation.

Works Cited

“Molecular Duo Dictate Weight and Energy Levels”. (February 28, 2012). Neuroscience News. March 2, 2012.


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