Using a mouse model his lab developed at BIDMC, Mark Andermann, PhD, principal investigator in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at BIDMC and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues recorded the activity of hundreds of individual brain cells in the insular cortex to determine exactly what is happening as hungry animals ate.
The team observed that when mice hadn't eaten for many hours, the activity pattern of insular cortex neurons reflected current levels of hunger. As the mice ate, this pattern gradually shifted over hours to a new pattern reflecting satiety. When mice were shown a visual cue predicting impending availability of food -- akin to a person seeing a food commercial or a restaurant logo -- the insular cortex appeared to simulate the future sated state for a few seconds, and then returned to an activity pattern related to hunger. These findings provided direct support for studies in humans that hypothesized that the insular cortex is involved in imagining or predicting how we will feel after eating or drinking.
Cortex - Simulating - Consequences - Meal - Author
"It is as if the insular cortex is briefly estimating, or simulating, the physiological consequences of eating a meal," said first author Yoav Livneh, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in Andermann's lab. "When hungry, this would be a simulation of satiety. But when considering whether to eat in the absence of hunger, for example when eating dessert after a big meal, this would be a simulation of the consequences of overeating. We hypothesized in this paper that when insular cortex activity shifts from a pattern reflecting current bodily state to a pattern reflecting a future satiety state, the size of this shift actually predicts how rewarding it will be to eat the food."
A second experiment in which thirsty mice...
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