A decreased interest in food is associated with a greater interest in novelty-seeking behavior and cocaine use, a mouse study suggests. The researchers found the reverse was also true—an increased interest in food was associated with a decreased interest in cocaine use and novelty-seeking behavior.
The researchers, from Yale University, studied a set of neurons in the brain that control hunger. They found these neurons are associated with overeating, as well as non-food behaviors including novelty seeking and drug addiction, according to Science Daily. Scientists looking for treatments for obesity and diabetes have increasingly focused on the brain’s reward circuits. They have thought that in obese and diabetic patients, food may be a type of “drug of abuse,” similar to cocaine, the researchers note in a news release. However, the study suggests there may be people who are more prone to seek rewards, but are still lean.
“There is this contemporary view that obesity is associated with the increased drive of the reward circuitry,” said researcher Tamas L. Horvath. “But here, we provide a contrasting view: that the reward aspect can be very high, but subjects can still be very lean. At the same time, it indicates that a set of people who have no interest in food, might be more prone to drug addiction.”
Their results appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.