Audrey Dussutour & Rong Gong - Food for Thought: How internal states shape foraging behavior

April 20, 2021

Audrey Dussutour: Ant colonies solve complex nutritional challenges

Achieving nutritional homeostasis is crucial for the fitness of all living organisms. Using ‘‘collective wisdom,’’ ants have been shown to excel at making rapid and appropriate decisions under various contexts , including foraging. Ants often communicate to share information about food resources, a process allowing them to focus their foraging activity on the best food source available. However, what constitutes the best food source depends on the nutritional context of the colony in relation to its food environment. In this talk, I will reveal how ants are able collectively to overcome complex nutritional challenges provided by their environment.

Rong Gong: Transition between Motivation and Consumption in Hunger and Thirst

In face of high palatable food or beverage, once we begin to eat or drink, we simply can’t resist to eat or drink much more than what we really need. How does this happen? Motivated feeding or drinking behaviors can be deconstructed into appetitive phase, consummatory phase and satiety phase. While a lot of studies focus on the neural mechanisms of appetitive phase and satiety phase, we know very little of how consummatory phase is regulated. Motivated feeding and drinking behaviors have distinct goals, but they contain the similar sequential behaviors across three behavior phases. It implies the potential shared pathway underlying this generality. By studying the converged brain regions between hunger and thirst circuits, we identified a novel brain region – periLC specifically regulates consumption behaviors with the inhibited responses in glutamatergic subpopulations. These PeriLCVGLUT2 neurons convey palatability signals that are derived from hedonic value of the consumed food or beverage and their responses are greatly modulated by homeostatic need states. With the inhibited responses during consumption, PeriLCVGLUT2 neurons maintain the consummatory phase through double negative feedback regulation. Thus, the properties of PeriLCVGLUT2 neurons on palatability-guided consumption provide a new insight into hedonic-driven consumption, which is a major factor that contributes to hedonic overeating and obesity in modern society.

Artwork drawn by Rory Beresford