After each one of those big meals you ate over the holidays, the cells lining your stomach and intestines released hormones into the bloodstream to signal the brain that you were full and should stop eating. Researchers at Duke University have now mapped out another system, a cell-to-cell connection between the gut and the nervous system, that may be more direct than the release of hormones in the blood.
The new system may change researchers' understanding of how we sense being full, and how that sensation might be affected by gastric bypass surgery. The findings, which appeared Jan. 2, 2015 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, also shed light on a potential new mechanism giving foodborne viruses access to the brain.
"The study supports the idea that there could be a real biology of gut feelings," said Diego Bohórquez, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke. "As soon as food contacts the wall of the gut, the brain will know in real time what's going on in the gut," said Bohórquez, who conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Rodger Liddle, a professor of gastroenterology.