Scientists have identified a peptide called pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP) and a hormone produced by neurons, in a specific area of the brain called the 'central amygdala', that can reduce hunger cravings and lead to weight loss. This novel study by researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) may one day lead to medications that treat obesity and binge eating disorders.
According to the researchers PACAP has been known for its food intake and body weight effects in the hypothalamus (the area of the brain known for controlling appetite). However, this is the first study of PACAP effects in the amygdala, a region of the brain outside the hypothalamus, involved in fear but also in the emotional component of eating.
The researchers also found how PACAP decreases food intake when injected in the amygdala. Researcher Valentina Sabino said, "We found that amygdalar PACAP reduces the amount of food eaten within meals, but not how many meals are consumed. In addition, we also found that PACAP reduced the rate of intake of food. This meant that, following administration of PACAP, models were eating more slowly."
The researchers believe these findings could have implications for a variety of conditions, since they found not only how much food subjects ate but also how fast they ate them. Co-author Pietro Cottone said, "The PACAP system may hypothetically be the target of medications to treat not only obesity but also binge-eating, a disease characterized by excessive, uncontrollable consumption of food within brief periods of time."
The study is published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.