Study Demonstrates Feedback Loop Between Brown Fat and the Brain

Brown fat tissue communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting obesity, such as how much fat we have and how much fat we've lost, according to researchers at Georgia State University. The findings, published in the February 4, 2015 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, help to describe the conversation that takes place between the brain and brown fat tissue while brown fat is generating heat. The article is titled “Brown Adipose Tissue Has Sympathetic-Sensory Feedback Circuits.” The experiments in this work were carried out in Siberian hamsters. Brown fat is considered "good fat" or "healthy fat" because it burns calories to help generate heat for our bodies and expend energy, while the far-more-abundant white fat stores energy for later use and can increase the risk for health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease. Studies have suggested that brown fat plays a significant role in someone having the capability to burn more energy, becoming a tool to stay trim and fight obesity. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to target brown fat and learn how to further activate it, said John Garretson, second author on the study and a doctoral student in the Neuroscience Institute and Center for Obesity Reversal at Georgia State. The current study found that when brown fat tissue was activated with a drug that mimics the sympathetic nervous system messages that normally come from the brain, the brown fat talked back to the brain by activating sensory nerves. The sensory nerves from brown fat increased their activity in response to direct chemical activation and heat generation. "This is the first time that the function of sensory nerves from brown fat has been examined," Garretson said.
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