There is a large gap in our understanding of how top-down cognitive processes, such as memory, influence energy intake. Similarly, there is limited knowledge regarding how the brain controls the timing of meals and meal frequency. Understanding how cognition influences ingestive behavior and how the brain controls meal frequency will provide a more complete explanation of the neural mechanisms that regulate energy intake and may also increase our knowledge of the factors that contribute to diet-induced obesity. We hypothesize that dorsal hippocampal neurons, which are critical for memory of personal experiences (i.e., episodic memory), form a memory of a meal, inhibit meal onset during the period following a meal, and limit the amount ingested at the next meal. In support, we describe evidence from human research suggesting that episodic memory of a meal inhibits intake and review data from human and non-human animals showing that impaired hippocampal function is associated with increased intake. We then describe evidence from our laboratory showing that inactivation of dorsal hippocampal neurons decreases the interval between sucrose meals and increases intake at the next meal. We also describe our evidence suggesting that sweet orosensation is sufficient to induce synaptic plasticity in dorsal hippocampal neurons and raise the possibility that impaired dorsal hippocampal function and episodic memory deficits contribute to the development and/or maintenance of diet-induced obesity. Finally, we raise some critical questions that need to be addressed in future research.
Parent, M. B. (2016, January 5). Cognitive control of meal onset and meal size: Role of dorsal hippocampal-dependent episodic memory. Physiology and Behavior. Elsevier Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.03.036