your reflexes until you've had enough
squeeze in another mouthful? Feeling full is all a question
of reflexes, according to Leeds biomedical researcher
Dr David Lewis (pictured left). He hopes to open
the way for new therapies to treat obesity, by looking
at how, why and when our brain tells our stomach it's
basic reflexes controlling eating are centred in the hindbrain
the lower part of the brain stem, where it joins
the spinal cord. Leeds is the only place carrying out
research into feeding reflexes within the hindbrain.
simple connection between feeling full and stopping eating
is a purely reflex action, as opposed to behavioural responses
what we like or don't like, or when we choose to
eat which are controlled by appetite centres in
the higher part of the brain.
Lewis said: "Neurones in the stomach are sensitive
to both acid and nutrients, and when food enters the stomach
and digestion begins, these nerve cells communicate with
the hindbrain, with messages sent back and forth between
the stomach and the brain.
looking at how specific meal-related stimuli, such as
distention of the stomach or the presence of acid, affect
individual hindbrain neurones which form part of the feeding
research has particular implications for obesity, now
a major health problem in the Western world with over
30% of the UK population classified as obese.
is caused by taking in more food than the body requires,"
said Dr Lewis. "The hindbrain is somehow shut down
or modulated, making the reflex to stop feeding no longer
we can increase our understanding of the neural pathways
by which the brain controls food intake and energy expenditure,
it may lead to the development of new therapies for this
Lewis' research is funded by the Royal Society.