Obesity and the Effects of the Reward System on Food Intake
Food is eaten due to the basic need for energy, but also because foods are pleasurable and ‘rewarding.’ The mesolimbic dopamine system in the brain, which is more commonly referred to as the brain’s “reward pathway,” is the neural circuit that regulates the pleasurable or rewarding aspects of different substances and activities. Researchers are studying how these dopamine pathways regulate feeding, especially the intake of pleasurable high fat/high sugar foods that significantly contribute to obesity. This includes how dopamine pathways regulate the intake of these foods, and how excessive intake of high fat/high sugar foods alters these pathways to contribute to the development of obesity. These studies will increase our understanding of how the brain controls the intake of pleasurable and rewarding foods with the goal of being able to target these mechanisms to treat and/or prevent overeating and the development of obesity.