People who are uninterested in food 'are more likely to take cocaine'
06:51 GMT, 25 June 2012
People uninterested in food may be more likely to take cocaine, a study shows.
Researchers found that neurons associated with overeating were also associated with non-food activities, such as drug taking.
But while both are linked to the brain's 'reward' circuitry, a desire to eat was linked to decreased interest in 'novelty' behaviour such as drugs, reports Nature Neuroscience.
People who are less interested in food could be more likely to take cocaine, according to a recent study
Researchers had been studying the brain to investigate the notion that food could become a 'drug of abuse' just like cocaine.
But they found that the common wisdom was 'flipped on its head'.
Dr Marcelo Dietrich, of Yale School of Medicine, said: 'Using genetic approaches, we found that increased appetite for food can actually be associated with decreased interest in novelty as well as in cocaine, and on the other hand, less interest in food can predict increased interest in cocaine.'
Researchers found that neurons associated with overeating were also associated with non-food activities, such as drug taking
The team studied mice in which a signaling molecule that controls hunger-promoting neurons in the hypothalamus was taken out.
The mice were given various non-invasive tests that measured how they respond to novelty, and anxiety, and how they react to cocaine.
Professor Tamas Horvath said: 'We found that animals that have less interest in food are more interested in novelty-seeking behaviors and drugs like cocaine.
'This suggests that there may be individuals with increased drive of the reward circuitry, but who are still lean.
'This is a complex trait that arises from the activity of the basic feeding circuits during development, which then impacts the adult response to drugs and novelty in the environment.
'There is this contemporary view that obesity is associated with the increased drive of the reward circuitry.
'But here, we provide a contrasting view: that the reward aspect can be very high, but subjects can still be very lean.
'At the same time, it indicates that a set of people who have no interest in food, might be more prone to drug addiction.'