Gina M. Leinninger, PhD
- Faculty, Training Faculty, Behavioral & Systems, Cellular & Molecular
Assistant Professor, Physiology
Ph.D., 2005, University of Michigan
The Leinnnger lab studies the neurophysiological mechanisms by which neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) regulate energy balance, and how disruption of these neurons contributes to the development of obesity and metabolic disease. The LHA is a crucial brain center in the regulation of feeding, drinking, sleeping/arousal and locomotor behaviors that directly affect weight. Indeed, LHA neurons regulate the same brain circuits that mediate reward sensing and addiction (i.e. dopamine neurons), and can modulate hedonic feeding (i.e. like how we want a piece of yummy cake even though we’re just eaten dinner). There are several populations of LHA neurons that differ in their expression of neuropeptides and where they project within the brain (including populations containing neurotensin, orexin, leptin receptor and others) suggesting that these neuronal populations control different aspects of metabolic sensing and physiological output behavior. We utilize novel mouse models, state-of-the art neuronal tract tracing and neuronal regulation techniques to interrogate discrete populations of LHA neurons and their role in physiology. In particular we examine:
- What populations of LHA neurons respond to various metabolic stimuli, such as adiposity signals, feeding signals, dehydration, exercise, etc.?
- What neurotransmitters and neural pathways are involved?
- How do LHA neurons regulate motivated behaviors (feeding, drinking, movement etc.) that contribute to energy balance?
- Can we alter signaling via LHA neurons to promote weight loss or alter physiology?
Collectively, determining how LHA neurons signal and regulate behaviors will increase our understanding of how the brain controls energy balance and the pathogenesis of obesity.