In the absence of food, neurons that normally control appetite initiate complex, repetitive behaviors seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and anorexia nervosa, according to a new study by Yale School of Medicine researchers.
Neural circuits are responsible for flexible goal-oriented behaviors. The Yale team investigated how a population of neurons in the hypothalamus that control food intake are also involved in other behaviors. Known as Agrp neurons, these cells also control repetitive, stereotypic behaviors in mice when food is not available
…in the absence of food, mice engaged in repetitive behaviors, such as grooming and marble burying. They further demonstrated that these behaviors were goal-oriented and not related to anxiety.
“These observations unmask the relevance of primitive brain regions previously linked to eating to other complex behaviors…These findings are relevant to understanding diseases with both homeostatic and compulsive components and highlight the multitasking nature of neurons in the brain.”
…the data suggests that these primitive brain regions play a crucial role in psychiatric conditions.