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The Thirsty Brain

February 2, 2015

Neuroscientists have identified key brain circuits responsible for thirst.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The thirsty brain. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers have discovered key circuits in the brain that control thirst. Columbia University neuroscientists Charles Zuker and Yuki Oka studied a brain region called the SFO, which can directly sense whether the body has the right balance of salt and water. The scientists used a relatively new method called optogenetics to activate two different sets of neuronal circuits in the SFO with light. Oka, now at Caltech, says activating one of the circuits instantly caused the mice to drink – even if they weren’t thirsty. But activating the other circuit made them to immediately stop drinking. He says the two circuits probably work together to maintain blood pressure and electrolyte balance in the body.

YUKI OKA (California Institute of Technology):

Thirst is one of the fundamental instincts for all animals for survival, so identifying the neural circuit that’s controlling this behavior is critical.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.