Persistent hunger-sensing in the absence of food availability serves to promote adaptive behaviours that enable food seeking in potentially novel and unpredictable environments. These adaptive behaviours involve stress management and the regulation of motivation and mood, all of which facilitate emotional competency to maintain food seeking and feeding behaviour. Currently, we do not understand how hunger-sensing neural circuits engage and interact with neural pathways controlling emotional processing to optimize food seeking behaviours. Hunger-sensing in emotional processing can directly influence feeding behaviour, feed efficiency, body weight gain and optimal growth. Recent studies are beginning to examine neural pathways that link hunger sensing to emotional processing underlying mood and motivated behaviour. However, it is surprising that we know very little about how hunger-sensing neural circuits engage and interact with neural pathways affecting emotional processing. One potentially important brain region integrating hunger-sensing information with emotion processing is the medial amygdala (MeA). The MeA is located in the medial temporal lobe of the mammalian brain and has a well characterised role in social and emotional processing in animals. Intriguingly, from our point of view, its contains a number of GHSR-expressing neurons and our cre-dependent tracing techniques show that it is also innervated by hunger-sensing AgRP neurons and GHSR neurons in the ARC Project Aims: • Characterise the anatomical projection targets of MeA neurons. • Record MeA neurons during behavioural tasks relevant to food seeking in unpredictable environments. • Determine the behavioural significance of MeA neurons to food seeking strategies using optogenetics.
Department of Physiology, hunger, ghrelin, GHSR, food intake, food-seeking, medial amygdala, optogenetics, DREADDs, Calcium imaging
Masters by research
Top-up scholarship funding available