JUPITER, FL, March 23, 2010 In a newly published study, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have shown for the first time that the same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat, pushing people into obesity.
The new study, conducted by Scripps Research Associate Professor Paul J. Kenny and graduate student Paul M. Johnson, was published March 28, 2010 in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The study's startling findings received widespread publicity after a preliminary abstract was presented at a Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago last October. Articles heralding the new discovery appeared in news publications around the world, focusing on the point obese patients have been making for years that, like addiction to other substances, junk food binging is extremely difficult to stop.
The study goes significantly further than the abstract, however, demonstrating clearly that in rat models the development of obesity coincides with a progressively deteriorating chemical balance in reward brain circuitries. As these pleasure centers in the brain become less and less responsive, rats quickly develop compulsive overeating habits, consuming larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese. The very same changes occur in the brains of rats that overconsume cocaine or heroin, and are thought to play an important role in the development of compulsive drug use.
Kenny, a scientist at Scripps Research's Florida campus, said that the study, which took nearly three years to complete, confirms the "addictive" properties of junk food.
"The new study, unlike our preliminary abstract, explains what happens in the brain of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food," said Kenny. "It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on th
|Contact: Keith McKeown|
Scripps Research Institute