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Brain’s ‘thirst circuit’ gets signals from mouth

Aug 04, 2016, 4:01 AM EDT
(Source: Amanda Govaert/flickr)
(Source: Amanda Govaert/flickr)

A new study, published in the journal Nature, has attributed the quick regulation of drinking behavior in humans and animals to a specific “thirst circuit,” which gets rapidly activated by food and quietened by cool temperatures in the mouth. The research says that thirst is a form of signal by which brain alerts the body about a disruption in the composition of the blood stream.

The study’s senior author Zachary Knight, from the University of California, San Francisco, said that thirst “anticipates” changes in our fluid balance rather than responding to them, writes the BBC.

Scientists analyzed brain activity in genetically engineered mice, which were left to eat or drink in various experimental conditions. It emerged that when the animals were thirsty, the brain cells in a region called the subfornical organ, or S.F.O. were highly active. As soon as the mice drank or ate, the activity dropped rapidly, indicating that the brain cells were responding to the signals from the oral cavity.

The study found that the “thirst circuit” in brain also monitors the temperature of the mouth. Cold beverages inhibit the S.F.O. activity faster than warm or hot ones, the reason why cold water is more thirst-quenching, notes International Business Times

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