Scientists at The University of Manchester have for the first time uncovered how brain cells or ‘neurons’ that keep us alert become turned off after we eat.
The findings – published in the scientific journal Neuron this week – have implications for treating obesity and eating disorders as well as understanding levels of consciousness.
“It has been known for a while that people and animals can become sleepy and less active after a meal, but brain signals responsible for this were poorly understood,” said Dr Denis Burdakov, the lead researcher based in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences.
“We have pinpointed how glucose – the sugar in food – can stop brain cells from producing signals that keep us awake.
Dr Burdakov’s research has shown exactly how glucose blocks or ‘inhibits’ neurons that make orexins – tiny proteins that are vital for normal regulation of our state of consciousness.
“These cells are critical for responding to the ever-changing body-energy state with finely orchestrated changes in arousal, food seeking, hormone release and metabolic rate to ensure that the brain always has adequate glucose.”
Malfunction of orexin neurons can lead to narcolepsy, where sufferers cannot stay awake, and obesity; there is also evidence that orexin neurons play a role in learning, reward-seeking and addiction.
“We have identified the pore in the membrane of orexin-producing cells that is responsible for the inhibiting effect of glucose.
“This previously unknown mechanism is so sensitive it can detect minute changes in glucose levels – the type that occurs between meals for example.
“This may well provide an explanation for after-meal tiredness and why it is difficult to sleep when hungry.
“Now we know how glucose stops orexin neurons ‘firing’, we have a better understanding of what may occur in disorders of sleep and body weight.
“This research perhaps sheds light on why our European friends are so fond of their siestas.”
Aeron Haworth | alfa
A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences