“There is no question the brain is the key site regulating appetite and obesity,” associate professor Zane Andrews from Monash said on Thursday.
“There are a number of genetic mutations that increase the risk of obesity and the majority are located somewhere in the brain,” he added.
Dr Andrews said his focus was on brain cells responsible for sensing hunger that also influenced motivation and reward.
He said that early results indicated that the brains of obese people were not sending messages to tell the body that they already have enough energy stored.
Dr Andrews’ team has identified that part of the problem could form while the brain pathways are forming during childhood, with children who are rewarded for good behaviour with sweet treats, forming an association between sugar and feeling good.
The team has been able to delete an enzyme in mice that plays an important role in stopping the brain from sending messages that the body is still hungry.
“What we think is the problem in obesity is that those cells are not receiving or sensing the signals to say the person is full so they keep firing, causing people to continue eating,” Andrews added.