Scientists Uncover Connection Between Human Brain’s Memory and Appetite, Shedding Light on Obesity Causes

New research sheds light on a significant correlation between disrupted neural connections in brain circuits responsible for memory and appetite regulation and an individual’s body mass index (BMI). This relationship is particularly pronounced among individuals grappling with disorders related to eating behavior, such as binge eating disorder (BED), which can ultimately culminate in obesity. The study highlights a crucial finding: those with obesity tend to exhibit impaired connections between two vital brain regions, the dorsolateral hippocampus (dlHPC) and the lateral hypothalamus (LH). This impairment may have implications for their capacity to manage and control emotional responses when confronted with the prospect of indulging in rewarding meals or treats.

APA 7: ChatGPT. (2023, August 31). Scientists Uncover Connection Between Human Brain’s Memory and Appetite, Shedding Light on Obesity Causes. PerEXP Teamworks. [Article Link]

The significance of the study’s findings becomes even more pronounced in light of the senior author’s insights, Casey Halpern, MD, an associate professor of Neurosurgery and Chief of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at Penn Medicine and the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Dr. Halpern emphasizes that these discoveries underscore the fundamental differences in certain individuals’ brain regions that heighten the risk of obesity. He emphasizes that addressing conditions like disordered eating and obesity necessitates a perspective beyond sheer willpower and healthier dietary choices. What these individuals truly require, he notes, is a therapeutic intervention akin to an adept electrician who can rectify the misalignments within their brain connections.

The dlHPC, situated in the cerebral domain responsible for memory processing, stands in stark contrast to the LH, a region tasked with maintaining bodily equilibrium, or homeostasis. Earlier studies have identified a connection between the loss of function in the human hippocampus and conditions like obesity and associated disorders such as BED. However, investigating the role of the hippocampus in individuals with obesity and eating disorders has been notably challenging beyond imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In a groundbreaking approach, researchers capitalized on patients already undergoing electrical brain monitoring in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. By observing brain activity as participants anticipated and subsequently received a rewarding treat (in this case, a chocolate milkshake), the researchers illuminated the simultaneous activation of both the dlHPC and LH. This joint activation occurred during the anticipation phase of the rewarding meal, a phenomenon reaffirmed through innovative stimulation techniques pioneered by coauthors Kai Miller, MD, PhD, and Dora Hermes Miller, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic.

Notably, among individuals with obesity, the researchers unearthed a direct relationship between the impairment of the hypothalamus-hippocampus circuit and their BMI. This connection became increasingly disrupted with higher BMIs, further accentuating the critical association.

To reinforce this intricate connection, Halpern’s team harnessed a technique known as “brain clearing” to analyze brain tissue. Within this analysis emerged the presence of melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), a regulator of feeding behavior produced in the LH. Intriguingly, the presence of MCH was localized to the dlHPC and nowhere else, effectively substantiating the linkage between these two regions.

Dr. Halpern expressed a novel perspective, noting, “Historically, the hippocampus has not been a focal point for addressing obesity or the disordered eating behaviors that can contribute to it.” He conveyed the team’s aspiration to leverage these research revelations in two distinctive ways: to pinpoint individuals who may be at risk of developing obesity in the future and to craft innovative therapeutic approaches. These approaches could encompass both non-invasive techniques and potentially more invasive interventions, all aimed at restoring the proper functioning of the vital neural circuit that appears to deviate from the norm in individuals grappling with obesity.


  1. JOURNAL Barbosa, D.A.N., Gattas, S., Salgado, J.S. et al. (2023). An orexigenic subnetwork within the human hippocampus. Nature. [Nature]
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