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Why do woman overeat? Investigating neural circuits underlying ‘emotional’ eating

Men and women overeat for different reasons and for women this is much more likely to be due to negative emotions such as stress, anger, loneliness or anxiety. Until now, no good animal model of this type of eating existed so we were unable to figure out the specific brain pathways involved in this type of eating. Our lab recently developed a model of ‘emotional’ eating in mice and this project will investigate the specific brain pathways responsible for this type of overeating in females.

Aims

To investigate the neural circuits underlying stress-induced binge eating using advanced techniques such as fibre photometry and viral tracing techniques. 

It is well established that stress and emotional state trigger binge eating. Notably, stress-related binge eating disproportionately affects females more than males, yet the precise biological mechanisms underscoring this sexual dimorphism remain underexplored. This has in part been due to the lack of robust animal models to recapitulate the human condition. To address this gap, we recently established a highly reproducible model of emotional stress-induced bingeing in female mice that is independent of caloric restriction commonly used in other models. Crucially, stress-induced bingeing in our model still occurred in ovariectomised mice, indicating that factors other than ovarian hormones must be involved. Our animal model provides an ideal tool to dissect the brain networks underscoring the stress-induced drive to eat in females.

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