National Institute of Genetics: Eating with the eyes’ is hard-wired in the brain

Eating with the eyes' is hard-wired in the brain

Have you ever wondered why just seeing food can make your mouth start to water? By visualizing neuronal activity in specific areas of the zebrafish brain, scientists at the National Institute of Genetics (NIG) in Japan have revealed a direct link between visual perception of food and feeding motivation. The study, published on April 20, 2017, issue of Nature Communications, suggests that “eating with the eyes” is deeply rooted in evolution.


Eating with the eyes' is hard-wired in the brain

This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP25290009 and JP25650120, and also partly supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Numbers JP15H02370 and JP16H01651, and NBRP from Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). This work was also supported in part by the Center for the Promotion of Integrated Sciences (CPIS) of SOKENDAI.

Prof. Kawakami, the senior author, showed us his zebrafish facility where thousands of fish tanks can be seen, each of which contains genetically different fish that can turn on, or drive the GCaMP expression in different types of cells in the brain or in the body. This collection of driver fish lines is being used to study various tissues and cell types by zebrafish researchers all over the world. Of the nearly 2,000 such driver fish lines in the lab, two played important roles in the current study: one for the imaging of the prey detector neurons and the other for the feeding center in the hypothalamus.

“Successful brain imaging was made possible through the development of our genetic resources on which I have spent more than twenty years. This is the power of zebrafish genetics. This work showcases a successful application of our genetic resources in the study of brain function”, Prof. Kawakami said.

“Our study demonstrates how tightly visual perception of food is linked to motivational feeding behavior in vertebrate animals. This is an important step toward understanding how feeding is regulated and can be modulated in normal conditions as well as in feeding disorders”, Dr. Muto said. [Read more]

News & image Source: Research Organization of Information & Systems, National Institute of Genetics.


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