Food or Sex !!! What would it be, if you didn’t eat anything for days ??.. Funniest question to share over the coffee table while in conversation with friends. I, myself will always go for food, but mice showed some pretty intriguing behavior, by being willing to socialize with the opposite sex even when hungry for several days.

At the University of Cologne in Germany, a neuroscientist named Dr. Tatiana Korotkova and his team experiment to study the effect of the leptin hormone in decision-making, which is responsible for the activation of cells in the brain and promotes a feeling of fullness.

Neuroscientists conducted experiments on male mice, employing a method that mimics the effects of the leptin hormone. This hormone typically signals brain cells to suppress obesity. Their research revealed that mice subjected to this treatment, and deprived of food for five days, opted to engage in mating behavior rather than consuming from a food source.

By employing a combination of optogenetics and chemogenetics techniques, neuroscientists investigated the impact of the leptin hormone on male mice brain cells responsible for obesity suppression. They observed that heightened food intake coincided with a decrease in activity among a specific subgroup of neurons expressing the leptin receptor (LepRLH). These neurons, while normally involved in limiting feeding or drinking, promoted social interaction under mild starvation conditions.

The study highlights the brain’s capacity to focus on singular activities, computing which behavior offers the most reward or fulfills the most pressing need at a given time. While traditionally, neurons were thought to serve specific functions, this research suggests that individual neurons can encode multiple stimuli. Consequently, coordinating behaviors through the same set of cells proves more efficient than relying on disparate cell types to communicate.

Understanding how these cellular dynamics change during the onset of obesity or the development of eating disorders is crucial. Despite the similarities between mouse and human physiology, the question remains: faced with prolonged hunger, would humans also prioritize mating over nourishment?

Next: Super Human: A Crazy Science Experiment


  • Petzold, Anne, Hanna Elin Van den Munkhof, Rebecca Figge-Schlensok, and Tatiana Korotkova. “Complementary lateral hypothalamic populations resist hunger pressure to balance nutritional and social needs.” Cell Metabolism 35, no. 3 (2023): 456-471. [[Paper]]
  • Jais, Alexander, Lars Paeger, Tamara Sotelo-Hitschfeld, Stephan Bremser, Melanie Prinzensteiner, Paul Klemm, Vasyl Mykytiuk et al. “PNOCARC neurons promote hyperphagia and obesity upon high-fat-diet feeding.” Neuron 106, no. 6 (2020): 1009-1025. [[Paper]]

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