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UArizona research aims to help those who are anorexic or obese

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Researchers realize there's a strong tie between eating and emotions.

TUCSON (KVOA) - “For example, if we want to treat patients with eating disorders, say anorexia nervosa, we want to make them eat more, we just target those neurons or brain regions,” said Dr. Haijiang Cai, an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Arizona and a BIO5 Institute member.

Eating disorders and obesity are issues that impact many people.

Researchers at the University of Arizona hope to change that by figuring out the brain region associated with feeling full and then developing therapies to help with eating control.

A part of the brain known as the amygdala plays a role in a lot of emotions, including feeling full. But, it does not stop there.

The brain signal heads to neurons in a brain region called the parasubthalamic nucleus.

This brain region is partly responsible for the feeling of being full.

Researchers realize there's a strong tie between eating and emotions.

“In our daily life, when we are under stress, some people eat more, some people eat less, and with a good meal, we feel happy,” Cai said. “They are related. They are closely related in patients for example, with eating disorder, anorexia, they have depression and anxiety, and some of them will commit suicide. Obese people, they eat more, but they also have might have anxiety or emotion problems.”

Dr. Cai says it is likely multiple brain regions are working together that lead to feeling full.

Right now, there are six FDA-approved medications for weight management, but, there can be side effects.

Researchers hope to take what they learned about this brain region and develop more specific therapies that target the specific neurons that control eating behavior, with less side effects. 

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