Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 4, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
Wednesday, April 4, 1973 THE LETHBRIOGE HERALD 39 Brain research at U of L Key to understanding obesity near? Why do some people gain weight to the point of obesity, while others remain rail thin? Is simple over-eating the ans- wer? A University of Lethbridge psychology professor is con- ducting research into the func- tions and relationships of two complex and somewhat myster- ious areas of the brain known as the hypothalamus and the hippocampus. The results of his work may one day shed light on the psychological causes of obesity, as well as what parts of the brain guide and trigger man's motor and sensory res- ponses. The mystery, according to Dr. I. Q. A. Whishaw, lies in the connections between the hypothalamic and hippocampal areas of the brain: research has not yet determined the exact manner in which the two kinds of brain tissues are inter- related. The hypothalamus is located in the anterior part of the brain stem and is the drive centre, "trigger" or regulatory area of the brain. The hippocampus, located in the forebrain, is thought to be responsible for controlling or guiding a body's responses. The complication begins when scientists attempt to study the two areas independ- ently of each other that's when all the nicely postulated theories seem to break down. Dr. Whishaw is conducting his research under a three- year grant from the Na- tional Research Council of Can- ada. Assisted by senior stu- dents, he is nearing the end of the second year of the project. LABORATORY ANIMALS Using laboratory rats as sub- jects, Dr. Whishaw and his stu- dents "operate" on the ani- mals, making lesions in the posterior and anterior portion of their brain to determine which locality determines which functions. Depending on the size and location of the lesion, cer- tain behavioral changes are evi- dent in the rats When lesions are made in the posterior area of the hypo- thalamus, the subjects become less aware of sensory input. They are comatose in their im- mediate postoperative state. They slowly recover from their lethargy, but never to the point of regaining their former aware- ness. Lesions to the anterior portion of the hypothalamus result in 'rats who are hyper- responsive, extremely aware of their surroundings and exhibit hyperactive and compulsive be- havior. Dr. Whishaw and his asso- ciates found that, the larger the posterior lesion, the more sev- ere was the rat's disability in terms of voluntary movements, although it still sometimes ex- hibited typical automatic types of motions. All of which may indicate the hypothalamus functions as a sensory modulator. How ef- fectively it fulfills that role tends to determine a body's degree of sensory responsive- ness. According to research by Terry Robinson, one of Dr, Whishaw's students, rats with posterior hypothalamic lesions will not swim if placed in warm water, but allow themselves to sink and drown. However, if the shock (or stimulus) to the system is great enough if the water is cold the animals will begin to swim and escape. Dr. Whishaw postulates that the hypothalamus works "like an amplifier, to increase or "de- crease awareness of sensory input." Damage to the poster- ior hypothalamus lessens the organism's amplifying abilities. Thus, more intense stimulus is required to trigger or to ini- tiate behavior. PRACTICAL USE That's all very well, from a laboratory point of view. But what, one might ask, are the implications of the research in terms of application to the human situation? Dr. Whishaw thinks the study cf the hypothalamus will lead to better understanding of the psychological causes of obes- ity. "Fat people eat because, bas- ically, they like the taste of good food. That's a logical con- clusion. However, if a fat person were given nothing but unpleasant Maternity Charm 26 Pretty top and pant sets that go together like twins! Gaily printed in the latest styles, comfy to wear and great to look at! You want to be without them this season! Huriy down and sec this great new group. All machine washable. Asst'd. prints and plains. Sizes 8-16, tooW Drcnei STOftf HOURS: Open Drily 9 30 e.m. fa p.m. Thursday frttfcry a.m. fo 9M p.m. Villog. Mall, Tdtphorw 32S-92J1 food, he would probably become thin. He would not eat as much as is normal. He is accustomed to res- ponding to the stimulus of tasty and appealing says Dr. Whishaw, citing an example from research on human behav- ior. "The sensory world is very important to everyone, but some people react more extremely to sensory stimulus. It could be that .the obese person is overly sensitive to positive external stimuli, such as food. This stimulated by an overly active hypothalamus, the poor rolypoly seems to have no choice: if appealing food is placed before him, he will over- eat. As long as the stimulus of that mouth watering food is there, even though he has gorg- ed himself, he is driven to overeat. The problem is com- pounded because lack of will- power usually accompanies the eating compulsion. "A thin person, on the other hand, eats says Dr. Whishaw. "He eats only until he feels full, then ceases." INTERESTING CONCEPT It's an interesting concept to contemplate. Especially in our society, where fattening foods are all too readily available and adequate exercise is all too absent from our daily schedule. And where a slender, limber body is the prerequisite for con- formity to accepted standards of youth and beauty. Such over-sensitivity to out- side stimulus manifests itself in a variety of other forms of behavior, says Dr. Whishaw. Contrary to the popular assump- tion, fat people are not really jolly and placid. In fact, they are very easily influenced by events around them are read- ily upset and angered. "If you want to pick a fight, and really want a battle to re- advises the psycholo- gist, "pick a fat person. He's sure to get extremely outraged if you provoke him." Other characteristics attri- buted to the plump person are curiosity, interest in new ideas, and thirst for adventure again, results of the influence of external stimuli. An opposite condition may exist in cases of schizophrenia, speculates Dr. Whishaw, where part of the hypothalamus may be malfunctioning. The schizoid person is less responsive to his surroundings and often appears unaware of what is occurring about him. "He won't be easily "turned on" by external he adds, "and chances are, won't be too interested in the food placed before him." Findings of Dr. Whishaw's re- search indicate the hypothala- raus rather than being solely a regulatory mechanism to con- trol internal body functions, as was once believed is respon- sible for controlling the amount of sensory stimulation to which a person is exposed. "Rather than regulating body weight in terms of what a per- son eats, the hypothalamus de- termines a person's bulk in terms of how acute are the sen- sations concludes Dr. Whishaw. Insurance firm cuts U.S. ties CALGARY (CP) Para- mount Life Insurance Company of Calgary became a fully Ca- nadian owned company last week with the purchase cf shares held by a United States firm. Alberta officers and directors of the company paid to American Western Life Insur- ance Co. of Utah for shares or 49.9 per cent of those issued. Paramount is the largest of four insurance companies based in Alberta. Your 2 favourite makers bring you the best, in smooth, close shaving. 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