Virginia Tech Scientist Receives $2 Million to Examine Brain Circuitry Responsible for Overconsumption of High-Fat Foods


Cutting out your favorite treats could make your brain crave even more, according to a Virginia Tech scientist.

Sora Shin, an assistant professor at VTC’s Fralin Institute for Biomedical Research, received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to examine the brain circuitry that may be responsible for overeating a diet. high in fat after a period of avoidance of desired foods.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people worldwide are obese, and that number is growing. The main culprit of this global public health crisis: the availability of too many cheap, appetizing, high-calorie treats.

Overeating of appetizing foods such as cakes, chips and ice cream is a major public health problem leading to obesity. »

Sora Shin, assistant professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

With support from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Shin’s lab at the Fralin Institute for Biomedical Research aims to identify the brain pathways responsible for high-fat diet relapse by studying the leptin-sensitive circuit that connects the lateral hypothalamus of the brain to the brainstem.

Leptin is a hormone that helps maintain body weight over a long period through its interaction with the hypothalamus – a region of the brain responsible for self-regulating processes, such as body temperature, thirst and hunger.

During preliminary research in mouse models, Shin found that after being exposed to a high-fat diet, mice not only selected high-fat foods when given a choice over their normal diet , but they also ate too much after a period without having any. .

According to Shin, many successful dieters have high rates of relapse to a high-fat diet and overeating. His new research study addresses a central problem in preventing food relapse after abstinence.

“Our study is important because for the first time we will have an important framework to clarify how the leptin-responsive brain circuit responds to exposure to high-fat foods, and how this interaction increases the risk of emotional overeating after a period of abstinence,” Shin said.

Shin, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is a principal investigator on a team that also includes In-Jee You, a research associate at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, and Yeeun Bae, a graduate student in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech. Shin is an iTHRIV researcher, part of the Integrated Translational Research Institute of Virginia.


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