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Acts of appetite: neural circuits governing the appetitive, consummatory, and terminating phases of feeding

Abstract

The overconsumption of highly caloric and palatable foods has caused a surge in obesity rates in the past half century, thereby posing a healthcare challenge due to the array of comorbidities linked to heightened body fat accrual. Developing treatments to manage body weight requires a grasp of the neurobiological basis of appetite. In this Review, we discuss advances in neuroscience that have identified brain regions and neural circuits that coordinate distinct phases of eating: food procurement, food consumption, and meal termination. While pioneering work identified several hypothalamic nuclei to be involved in feeding, more recent studies have explored how neuronal populations beyond the hypothalamus, such as the mesolimbic pathway and nodes in the hindbrain, interconnect to modulate appetite. We also examine how long-term exposure to a calorically dense diet rewires feeding circuits and alters the response of motivational systems to food. Understanding how the nervous system regulates eating behaviour will bolster the development of medical strategies that will help individuals to maintain a healthy body weight.

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Fig. 1: Neural circuitry underlying the three acts of appetite.
Fig. 2: Feeding neurons conform to energy status and food palatability.
Fig. 3: Fine tuning of satiation circuits is required to avoid aversive outcomes.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge with gratitude S. Sarsfield for comments on the manuscript. Y. A. is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Intramural Research Program (NIDA IRP), US National Institutes of Health (NIH). M. K. is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Intramural Research Program (NIDDK IRP), US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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I.C.A, A.P.M.T, Y.A., and M.J.K. conceived the outline, elaborated on the concepts, and wrote the synopsis of the review. I.C.A. wrote the introduction, prologue and act I sections. A.P.M.T. and Y.A. wrote the act II section. M.J.K. wrote the introduction, act III, and epilogue sections and the boxes and figure legends. All authors read and gave feedback on all sections, and approved the final version of the paper.

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Correspondence to Yeka Aponte or Michael J. Krashes.

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Alcantara, I.C., Tapia, A.P.M., Aponte, Y. et al. Acts of appetite: neural circuits governing the appetitive, consummatory, and terminating phases of feeding. Nat Metab 4, 836–847 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-022-00611-y

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