Identification of a stress-sensitive anorexigenic neurocircuit from medial prefrontal cortex to lateral hypothalamus

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By modeling neural network dynamics related to homeostatic state and BMI, we identified a novel pathway projecting from the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to the lateral hypothalamus (LH) in humans. We then assessed the physiological role and dissected the function of this mPFC-LH circuit in mice. In vivo recordings of population calcium activity revealed that this glutamatergic mPFC-LH pathway is activated in response to acute stressors and inhibited during food consumption, suggesting a role in stress-related control over food intake. Consistent with this role, inhibition of this circuit increased feeding and sucrose seeking during mild stressors, but not under non-stressful conditions. Finally, chemogenetic or optogenetic activation of the mPFC-LH pathway is sufficient to suppress food intake and sucrose-seeking in mice. These studies identify a glutamatergic mPFC-LH as a novel stress-sensitive anorexigenic neural pathway involved in the cortical control of food intake.

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