Hunger arouses sensory perception, eventually leading to an increase in food intake, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Recently, researchers have found how the endocannabinoid system controls food intake through its effects on the perception of smells. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for a variety of physiological processes, including euphoria, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. It is also sensitive to substances like cannabis.
Published in the journal Nature, the researchers found that a protein receptor, CB1 cannabinoid receptors, control a circuit that connects the olfactory bulb (the region in the nervous system responsible for the sense of smell) to the olfactory cortex (higher regions in the brain). When the sensation of hunger is felt, the olfactory circuit is activated by the cannabinoid receptors and becomes more active.
This explains one of the reasons for food intake and attraction to food when the sensation of hunger is felt.
The researchers hope that this research can be used as a target for treating individuals who are either obese or anorexic. Clarification of the biological mechanism will allow better management of these types of pathologies.