Brain Circuit Connects Feeding And Mood In Response To Stress

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Submitted by the Baylor College of Medicine….

stressMany people have experienced stressful situations that trigger a particular mood and also change certain feelings toward food. An international team led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine looked into the possibility of crosstalk between eating and mood and discovered a brain circuit in mouse models that connects the feeding and the mood centers of the brain. Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, these findings may help explain some of the observations between changes in mood and metabolism and provide insights into future solutions to these problems by targeting this circuit.

“This study was initiated by first author Dr. Na Qu, a psychiatrist of Wuhan Mental Health Center, China, when she was visiting my lab,” said corresponding author Dr. Yong Xu, associate professor of pediatrics and of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Qu, a practicing psychiatrist who also conducts basic brain research, was interested in investigating whether there was a neurological basis for the association between depression and other psychiatric disorders and alterations in metabolism, such as obesity or lack of appetite, she had observed in a number of her patients.

Xu, Qu and their colleagues worked with a mouse model of depression induced by chronic stress and observed that depressed animals ate less and lost weight. Then, they applied a number of experimental techniques to identify the neuronal circuits that changed activity when the animals were depressed.

“We found that POMC neurons in the hypothalamus, which are essential for regulating body weight and feeding behavior, extend physical connections into another region of the brain that has numerous dopamine neurons that are implicated in the regulation of mood,” said Xu, who also is a researcher at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital.We know that a decrease in dopamine may trigger depression.”

In addition to the physical connection between the feeding and the mood centers of the brain, the researchers also discovered that when they triggered depression in mice, the POMC neurons were activated and this led to inhibition of the dopamine neurons. Interestingly, when the researchers inhibited the neuronal circuit connecting the feeding and the mood centers, the animals ate more, gained weight and looked less depressed.

“We have discovered that a form of chronic stress triggered a neuronal circuit that starts in a population of cells that are known to regulate metabolism and feeding behavior and ends in a group of neurons that are famous for their regulation of mood,” Xu said. “Stress-triggered activation of the feeding center led to inhibition of dopamine-producing neurons in the mood center.”

Although more research is needed, Xu, Qu and their colleagues propose that their findings provide a new biological basis that may explain some of the connections between mood alterations and changes in metabolism observed in people, and may provide solutions in the future.

“Our findings only explain one scenario, when depression is associated with poor appetite. But in other cases depression has been linked to overeating. We are interested in investigating this second association between mood and eating behavior to identify the neuronal circuits that may explain that response,” Xu said.

Other contributors to this work include Yanlin He, Chunmei Wang, Pingwen Xu, Yongjie Yang, Xing Cai, Hesong Liu, Kaifan Yu, Zhou Pei, Ilirjana Hyseni, Zheng Sun, Makoto Fukuda, Yi Li and Qing Tian. The authors are affiliated with one or more of the following institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and China University of Geosciences.

This work received financial support from grants from the National Institutes of Health  (K99DK107008,606 R01DK111436, R01ES027544, R21CA215591), USDA/CRIS (6250-51000-059-04S), American Diabetes Association (1-17-PDF-138), American Heart Association awards  (17GRNT32960003, 16GRNT30970064 and 16POST27260254), National Natural Science Foundation of China (81400886), Hubei Province health and family planning scientific research project (WJ2015Q033) and Population and Family Planning Commission of Wuhan (WX14B34). Further support was provided by award and fellowships from Wuhan Young & Middle-Aged Talents, Health and Family Planning Commission of Wuhan Municipality and China Scholarship Council (File NO.201608420019).

Correlation Between Blood Pressure Stress Response And Underwater Treadmill Training

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informationredDuring their scientific investigation of blood pressure as it relates to stress during exercise on an underwater treadmill, authors Lambert, et al, tracked the responses of 60 adults who worked out on either land-based treadmills or in a HydroWorx therapy pool on an underwater treadmill during very specific sessions each week.

For the estimated 67 million Americans who suffer from high blood pressure, finding natural ways to improve their condition can be challenging, especially for those who are generally sedentary. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that only 47 percent of people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure have it under control. Unless this figure changes considerably, the cost of health care associated with high blood pressure treatment will only continue to skyrocket as Baby Boomers follow the natural aging processes. Thankfully, a recent study released by researchers at Texas A&M University may hold the key to helping those with higher than normal blood pressure keep their numbers at a lower rate through regular activity on an underwater treadmill in a HydroWorx therapy pool.

The study, Aquatic Treadmill Training Reduces Blood Pressure Reactivity to Physical Stress, has been published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®. During their scientific investigation of blood pressure as it relates to stress during exercise on an underwater treadmill, Authors Lambert, et al, tracked the responses of 60 adults who worked out on either land-based treadmills or in a HydroWorx therapy pool on an underwater treadmill during very specific sessions each week. The results of the testing showed that while all endurance exercise reduces blood pressure and the body’s related stress responses, the aquatic treadmill training significantly reduced the participants’ resting diastolic blood pressure more than the land-based treadmill training did. The researchers concluded that high blood pressure brought on by stress levels could be organically reduced through regular endurance intervals on an underwater treadmill.

Says Anson Flake, Co-Founder and CEO, HydroWorx, “We have heard anecdotal evidence of people using our therapy pools as a way to lower their blood pressure for years. Now, Texas A&M has put solid numbers to those claims. The science proves what we have always thought: Our products provide a low-impact, high-results alternative to lowering responses to everyday stressors.”

The outcome of the Texas A&M study provides a great deal of encouragement for those with high blood pressure who wish to become healthier through the use of a more natural remedy than medication. Even more reassuring is the fact that the participants were not highly active in their everyday lives, revealing the potential for any person to reap the benefits of aquatic treadmill exercise regimens.

About HydroWorx

Since the late 1990s, HydroWorx—based in Middletown, PA—has manufactured aquatic therapy pools with built-in underwater treadmills to enable physical therapists to more effectively offer their patients the opportunity to increase range of motion, decrease risk of falls and joint stress, and remain motivated through the rehab process. Every day, more than 23,000 athletes and patients use HydroWorx technology to recover from injuries and health conditions. For more information, please visit

– Courtesy of PRWeb

How To Handle The Runaway Stress Response

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By Debbie Mandel

womanA little stress, acute stress, is actually good for you. It wakes up your creativity, fuels your vitality and keeps your immune system vigilant. The qualifying word is little. However, when stress becomes chronic and you find yourself rushing from activity to activity with no personal time for yourself, it’s not the external world that is landing on your doorstep; rather it’s your need to constantly open the door!

Here’s what happens when you experience stress. Powerful hormones are released throughout the body, elevating blood pressure and putting your senses on high alert. Glucose is driven up into the brain and muscles. Your evolutionary pre-programmed response is fight, flight or freeze. However, in modern times whom do you fight? Where is the proverbial saber tooth tiger? You take it out on all your relationships, most importantly the relationship you have with yourself.

Ultimately, stress robs you of an optimistic resiliency that allows you to adapt to various obstacles; instead you are hitting your head against a wall of frustration. This is why stress needs to be systematically released because it is toxic to health and happiness. Go green not only by shedding toxic chemicals or processed foods, but also by shedding stress. Even little stressors accumulate and inundate. While you might not be able to control the big stressors in life, you can do something about the small ones. Once you learn to reduce your personal stress response, you will notice that those various aches and pains disappear. Also, you will feel more energetic, experience more “aha” moments, and embrace your authentic true self.

womantwisting8 little de-stressing techniques with a big impact:

• Begin your day in control instead of waking up with a jolt. Set your alarm clock five minutes earlier to lie in bed and ease into your day.

• Have a power breakfast of lean protein, complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs will help you release serotonin to stabilize mood and lean protein will help your brain focus. Food and mood correlate highly. Throughout the day eat balanced snacks and meals to be balanced. The Mediterranean diet is a good stress-reduction diet.

• Be aware that you are blown about in different directions with multi-tasking and over-scheduling. Begin by shedding one thing from your to-do list. How does this make you feel? What can you do for yourself with this new-found time?

• Move stress out of your body. Walk your legs to their next happiness. Begin an exercise program because Activity Alleviates Anxiety.

• Spend time outdoors to reset your natural rhythm from the technology overload. The sunshine vitamin improves mood.

Live in the moment. One moment can be bad, the next one good.

• Live in the moment. One moment can be bad, the next one good. People who are stressed live in the future – the next task, or they imagine a future catastrophe. Be fully present in all your activities. Use the activity, like cleaning out a drawer, as an opportunity to alter your perspective away from the stressor.

• Find a creative hobby to compensate you for loss, disappointment and sadness. Fill the emptiness with what makes your heart sing.

• Practice re-framing negatives into positives every day. Human beings have a negativity bias which perpetuates the stress response and makes things seem more awful than they are. We all take the facts and make up stories about them. Make yours a positive or witty story. Cultivate a positivity bias to live in greater joy.

– Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light and Addicted to Stress. She creates stress-management workshops and is an inspiring speaker. To learn more visit: