Pacemaker neurons integrate hunger and satiety

A paper supported by your funds has just come out. This study is from Dr. Spanswick, whose project: "Understanding the action of ghrelin in the brain: Identification of novel treatments for hyperphagia" FPWR is supporting.

Dr. Spanswick is looking at the interaction of neurons in the hypothalamus as it relates to controlling food intake and energy balance. This paper (abstract below) looks at single (rat) neurons to better delineate how they integrate peripheral, input signals (ghrelin, orexin, leptin) and respond with release of other neuropeptides (NPY, AgRP) that regulate appetite/energy expenditure.


This work is published in an outstanding journal, Nature Neuroscience. Orexigen-sensitive NPY/AgRP pacemaker neurons in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. van den Top M, Lee K, Whyment AD, Blanks AM, Spanswick D. Nat Neurosci. 7:493-4, 2004. The hypothalamic arcuate nucleus (ARC) integrates and responds to satiety and hunger signals and forms the origins of the central neural response to perturbations in energy balance. Here we show that rat ARC neurons containing neuropeptide Y (NPY) and agouti-related protein (AgRP), which are conditional pacemakers, are activated by orexigens and inhibited by the anorexigen leptin. We propose a neuron-specific signaling mechanism through which central and peripheral signals engage the central neural anabolic drive.

Topics: Research

Theresa Strong


Theresa V. Strong, Ph.D., received a B.S. from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). After postdoctoral studies with Dr. Francis Collins at the University of Michigan, she joined the UAB faculty, leading a research lab focused on gene therapy for cancer and directing UAB’s Vector Production Facility. Theresa is one of the founding members of FPWR and has directed FPWR’s grant program since its inception. In 2016, she transitioned to a full-time position as Director of Research Programs at FPWR. She remains an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Genetics at UAB. She and her husband Jim have four children, including a son with PWS.