Results Suggest Young People May Have Long-Term Effects, Especially in Areas of Cognitive Flexibility – ScienceDaily

Food insecurity is a problem for a growing segment of the U.S. population, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, but in isolation from other factors contributing to adversity, the effects of feasting and famine on the developing brain have been investigated. Few studies have examined .

A new study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley simulated the effects of food insecurity in young mice and found lasting changes later in life.

Linda Wilbrecht, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, said:

One of the key differences in behavior involved cognitive flexibility. It is the ability to create new solutions when the world changes.

“Reward-seeking mice may be inflexible and stick to only one strategy even when the reward is gone, or they may be flexible and try new strategies quickly. Yes, the stability of the food supply that mice had when they were young governed their flexibility under different circumstances as they grew up,” she said.

Epidemiological studies have linked food insecurity among children and adolescents to weight gain later in life, learning disabilities, and lower scores in mathematics, reading, and vocabulary. etc., are confused with other poverty-related issues. The new study was designed to examine the developmental and behavioral effects of food insecurity in a controlled setting that was not possible using human subjects.

This research has implications for humans. Policymakers recognize the importance of good nutrition from early childhood through high school by making federally funded free or discounted breakfast and lunch programs available in schools across the United States. The Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also provides benefits to supplement the food budgets of needy families. For families living paycheck to paycheck, these dietary programs have shown to be effective. In particular, school performance and graduation rates are improving.

However, there may be times when your child cannot access the food program, such as during summer holidays. The program could also inadvertently create cycles of feasts and famines when benefits are distributed at intervals of payments, and poor households may not be able to afford food at the end of each payment cycle. there is. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, her 6.2% of households with children (2.3 million total) were food insecure in her 2021.

“I think we need to understand that even temporary food shortages are important and that the brain doesn’t just catch up later. Food shortages can have long-term effects on someone’s brain function.” “Learning and decision-making abilities develop during childhood and adolescence, and how these critical skills are affected by access to food.” Access to food is something that can be addressed in this county. There are feeding and welfare programs, and we can make benefits and access to food more reliable and consistent. Supporting brain development is a good reason to support the food program.

The study, conducted with UC Berkeley faculty members Helen Bateup, Stephan Lammel, and their lab colleagues, will appear in the upcoming print edition of the journal. biology todayIt was published online on July 20th.

Flexibility when changing rules

Wilbrecht and her colleagues, including Ezekiel Galarus, a health and social scholar at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, give food on an irregular schedule while still providing enough food to maintain a safe weight. This diet was initiated one week before the onset of puberty in mice, which corresponds to late childhood in humans and late teenage years in mice. It lasted 20 days until I did. A separate group of mice was fed at any time.

We then tested cognition in adulthood using a foraging task in which mice seek out changing environments for rewards. For example, a behavior (in this case, learning which scent led to Honey Nut Cheerios) might be successful in the short term, but not forever. Predicted by her second scent where the reward was hidden.

Well-fed, food-insecure mice were tested as adults in both specific and uncertain environments, and found marked differences in cognitive flexibility. Mice were more flexible in uncertain situations than well-fed mice, while well-fed mice were more flexible in more stable situations.

“To see how these different flexibility profiles affect survival, we need to test them in the field.” Because we identify both gains and losses of function in learning and decision-making that are mediated by

The effects of food anxiety on cognition in male mice were strong, whereas cognition was not affected in female mice.

“This is one of the strongest behavioral effects we’ve seen so far when we’ve been modeling adversity,” says Wilbrecht.

However, food anxiety clearly had a negative effect on female mice. Females who were food-deficient during adolescence tended to be overweight when given unlimited food in adulthood, and this is reflected in humans who grew up with food insecurity. did not see such an effect.

PhD student Wan Chen Lin and researchers in the Bateup and Lammel lab also looked at brain reward networks governed by the neurotransmitter dopamine and found changes in male mice.

“We found that neurons in the dopamine system, which are important for reward-related behaviors such as learning, decision-making and addiction, were significantly altered in both input and output,” Wilbrecht said. “This suggests that there are broader changes in learning and decision-making systems in the brain.”

For example, researchers observed synaptic changes in dopamine neurons that project to the nucleus accumbens and also found changes in dopamine release in the dorsal striatum. These dopamine neurons have been shown in many other studies to play a role in learning and decision making.

Researchers continue to study food-anxiety mice to determine if they are susceptible to addictive behaviors associated with the dopamine network.

Other UC Berkeley authors on this paper are former postdoctoral fellow Polina Kosillo, former PhD student Christine Liu, and senior scientist Lung-Hao Tai. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (R21 AA025172, U19NS113201) and Robert Wood His Johnson Foundation. Bateup is a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator and a Weill Neurohub Investigator.

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