Laboratory of Regulatory Systems Neuroscience
The dramatic increase in the prevalence of obese and overweight individuals has intensified interest in obesity as a major health problem (type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are prominent among the co-morbidities of obesity). Feeding-related pathologies are not limited to those associated with excess food consumption, but also include pathologies of insufficient food consumption such as failure to thrive, food selectivity, early satiety and dyspepsia. What is remarkable is that despite the increased prevalence of these pathologies of feeding for humans of all ages, there are no effective pharmacological treatments currently available. It is clear that the development of new and effective pharmacotherapies relies on findings from basic research on the neurobiology of energy balance. Our lab is focused on expanding knowledge on the neural circuits and neurochemical systems that control food intake and energy expenditure. Unique to our approach is the perspective that the neural control of energy balance is anatomically distributed rather than centered in any one region of the brain. This perspective leads us to examine the neural processing of peripherally generated neural signals (e.g., vagal afferents) and blood-born correlates of energy status signals at multiple brain nuclei including those mediating the homeostatic (e.g., caudal brainstem, hypothalamus) and nonhomeostatic (e.g., hippocampus, nucleus accumbens) controls of energy balance.