Impulsive behaviour has many underlying contributing factors, and is associated with psychiatric and metabolic disorders like alcohol and drug addiction, overeating, gambling, squandering etc. These behaviours may lead to some serious health problems like obesity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson's disease. Impulsivity is vaguely referred to carelessly responding or taking an action without thinking it through beforehand. Binge eating has been largely linked with impulsive behaviour, which is mostly attributed to hunger or food preference or taste of the particular food. Little did we know that there's much more to it. Recently, a national team of scientists discovered that a particular circuit in the brain could trigger impulsivity that makes us unable to control our food intake.
Scott Kanoski, a neuroscientist and associate professor at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences said, ‘As impulsivity is a common characteristic of metabolic disease and several prevalent neuropsychiatric and behavioral disorders, these findings have implications with regards to understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of physical and mental health.”
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The study that was published in the journal ‘Nature Communications' studies the effect of a neuropeptide - melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) - on the appetite and eating habits of rats.
“Here we identify a hypothalamus to telencephalon neural pathway for regulating impulsivity involving communication from melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH)-expressing lateral hypothalamic neurons to the ventral hippocampus subregion (vHP). Results show that both site-specific upregulation (pharmacological or chemogenetic) and chronic downregulation (RNA interference) of MCH communication to the vHP increases impulsive responding in rats, indicating that perturbing this system in either direction elevates impulsivity. Collectively, these data reveal a specific neural circuit that regulates impulsivity and provide evidence of a novel function for MCH on behaviour.”
These findings that elucidate the functioning of neural substrates that may regulate impulsivity may lead to the development of path-breaking treatments that can improve physical and mental health of people and also improve the quality of their life.