Neurobiological mechanisms that normally control food intake and energy expenditure can be overcome by environmental cues and by stress. Of particular importance is the influence of the mesolimbic reward pathway. In genetically susceptible individuals, problematic over-eating likely reflects a changing balance in the control exerted by homeostatic versus reward circuits that are strongly influenced by environmental factors such as stress. Both stress and activation of the reward pathway have been shown to increase food intake and promote a preference for palatable, high-energy foods. Recent research has focused on the important role of circulating and central neuropeptides that powerfully regulate the brain response to food cues. For example, ghrelin has a potent positive effect on the motivational aspects of food intake, and central oxytocin may be involved in satiety. Thus, the decision to eat, or indeed to over-eat, involves a complex integrated neurobiology that includes brain centres involved in energy balance, reward and stress and their regulation by metabolic and endocrine factors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)
- Physiology (medical)