Invited Speaker ANZOS Annual Scientific Meeting 2021

Why do we overeat? Harnessing addiction neuroscience to understand overeating (#16)

Robyn Brown 1
  1. Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Parkville, VIC, Australia

With >2.8 million deaths/year attributable to overweight/obesity, it is now the 5th leading cause of global deaths and is rapidly surpassing smoking as the number one killer in the industrialized world. It is crucial, therefore, to understand why people overeat and why it is so difficult to resist the urge to eat “junk food” even in the absence of hunger.  A growing body of research has identified striking similarities between attributes of addiction and overeating in obesity. This emerging evidence supports the hypothesis that the brain’s reward circuitry may be dysregulated in case of obesity. This presentation will explore the extent to which drug addiction and diet-induced obesity share coincident neural underpinnings including identifying endophenotypes underlying this behaviour. Furthermore, for women in particular, negative emotions such as stress, frustration, anxiety, and loneliness have been shown to strongly influence eating behaviour and episodes of overeating yet this area remains unexplored, primarily due to a lack of good animal models and a historical lack of focus on female subjects in scientific studies. Robyn will present a novel model of emotional stress-induced binge eating in mice recently developed in her laboratory and data which demonstrates a distinct thalamo-cortical circuit gates this behaviour. This is the first functional evidence of possible a neural circuit which drives ‘emotional eating’ in females.