Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus said the AGRP neurons in the hypothalamus make sense from an evolutionary point of view.

In an environment where food is readily available, their difficult-to-ignore signal may seem like an annoyance but for earlier humans or animals in the wild, pursuing food or water can mean venturing into a risky environment, which might require some encouragement, researchers said.

AGRP neurons do not directly drive an animal to eat, but rather teach an animal to respond to sensory cues that signal the presence of food.

AGRP neurons are known to be clearly involved in feeding behaviours: When the body lacks energy, AGRP neurons become active, and when AGRP neurons are active, animals eat.

Postdoctoral researcher Nicholas Betley and graduate student Zhen Fang Huang Cao in a series of behavioural experiments offered well-fed mice two flavoured gels one strawberry and the other orange. Neither gel contained any nutrients, but the hungry mice sampled them both.

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