Xiaobing Zhang, an assistant professor in the FSU program in neuroscience and the department of psychology, received a five-year grant to study how the brain regulates eating behaviors.
The grant was awarded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (an institute within the National Institutes of Health) and is worth $1.8 million. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases conducts and supports biomedical research and receives federal funding. Zhang’s project is titled “Serotonin signaling in the uncertified zone and the paraventricular thalamus regulate eating behavior” and will examine a relatively understudied question.
In a press release, Zhang said previous studies showed that food intake is controlled by the brain. The brain must initiate food consumption based on the metabolic signals that the body sends to it. There is little knowledge in the scientific community about the role neuroplasticity and brain dysfunction play in the development of eating disorders in people due to the complexity of the neural pathways the brain uses to integrate related signals. emotions, rewards and satiety in everyday life.
Zhang’s particular research is important for helping scientists understand how central serotonin signaling affects eating control. The research will also help reveal the potential relationship between serotonin dysfunction and overeating, which is a significant issue in the world of health, as obesity is linked to leading causes of death in the United States such as accidents. cerebrovascular disease, diabetes and heart disease, according to the CDC.
The goal of Zhang’s research is to identify novel serotonin pathways and their role in regulating food intake. Serotonin extends to many regions of the brain such as the cortex, limbic system, thalamus and hypothalamus. The presence of serotonin allows the brain to regulate highly critical functions. If there is a disconnect, the brain might be unable to regulate functions such as emotion, motivation, and behavior.
“We are very pleased with this NIH award to support our research to further investigate neural signaling that regulates food intake by targeting the incerta area and the paraventricular thalamus, two brain areas with inhibitory neural connections for control. diet revealed by our previous findings,” Zhang said. . “We hope to understand how and when these pathways are activated for feeding control. More importantly, we hope to reveal how these pathways are impaired by a chronic high-fat diet that leads to overeating and obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age-adjusted adult prevalence of obesity rose to more than 40% in 2018. Zhang believes this research will help scientists examine obesity by understanding better how the brain’s serotonergic systems impact eating. behaviours.
“Eating behavior and energy balance studies represent a historic strength at FSU,” Psychology Department Chairman Frank Johnson said in a press release. “It’s exciting to see Xiaobing build on this tradition, taking his research and our mission to educate students in important new directions.”
The new NIH grant will use electrophysiological techniques to record the electrical activity of neurons and optogenetic techniques to better understand how serotonin affects food intake. There is an abundance of electrophysiological techniques available, which are normally used by scientists to determine how neural disorders occur. Optogenetic techniques involve the activation of specific neurons through the use of light.
“This project highlights some of the important translational research being conducted by members of the neuroscience program,” said Linda Eckel, director of the FSU neuroscience program. “This groundbreaking work should reveal how dysfunctional serotonin signaling promotes overeating and unhealthy weight gain, with the long-term goal of identifying new pharmacological targets for the treatment of eating disorders and obesity. .”