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Neurological Foundation grant for investigating brain control of body weight

Thursday 21 July 2022 1:41pm

Joe Yip Pani Papaiouannou Yeri Rim in front of neurons July 2022
Right to left: Dr Joe Yip, Yeri Rim, Pani Papaioannou.

It started with a serendipitous discovery that a population of dopamine neurons in the hypothalamus are involved in appetite control. Now Dr Joe Yip has been awarded a small grant by the Neurological Foundation to take this research further.

According to a Ministry of Health New Zealand survey in 2020/21, obesity affects around 1 in 3 adults in New Zealand. While widely considered a “lifestyle” or “environmental” condition by the lay public, among neuroscientists, there is now clear understanding that obesity is better considered as a disorder of the brain control of appetite.

Joe and his team will aim to address the mechanisms underlying their earlier discovery to provide a new understanding of body weight regulation. By specifically manipulating the dopamine neurons in rats while monitoring their eating behaviour will allow them to investigate the interactions between this system and the brain circuits controlling appetite. These studies will therefore provide a new understanding of body weight regulation, which may help to explain the underlying neurological cause of obesity.