San Francisco: As a scientist who researches hunger and weight control, I'm interested in the way our brains let us know we've had enough.
We eat more slowly when we become full. For decades, experts believed that the shift in speed was primarily caused by signals from the stomach and intestines to the brain.
However, a new study from my team at UC San Francisco reveals that there is another process at work, which begins as soon as we taste our food.
This procedure was previously unknown since we were unable to examine the relevant brain activity in an animal while it was feeding.
The neurons involved are located deep in the brainstem. Truong Ly, a graduate student in my lab, devised novel tools that enabled us to observe the activity of these neurons in mice for the first time.
We discovered that our eating is controlled by two parallel pathways: one that restricts how quickly we eat and another that regulates how much we eat.
Food's taste stimulates the first route. This may appear counterintuitive: we tend to consume more of the foods that we enjoy.
However, even if we are not consciously aware of it, the feeling of taste influences how we eat.
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