A brain network that curbs the urge to eat

Scintillon Institute researchers uncover an evolutionarily conserved brain region that puts a “brake” on food intake which may advance therapeutics for obesity and related disorders with excessive eating such as Prader-Willi syndrome.

Do you ever wonder why you stop eating even when there are appealing foods available?

summary of cerebellar feeding network.

The cerebellum compares hunger state with after-eating nutritional status in the gut to regulate dopamine reward signals in the striatum to control meal size. click here for higher-res image credit: Aloysius Y. T. Low

A multi-institution collaboration led by Associate Professor Albert I. Chen at the Scintillon Institute, Assistant Professor J. Nicholas Betley and Postdoctoral Fellow Aloysius Low at the University of Pennsylvania searched for brain regions that might provide a stop signal for feeding and identified the cerebellum, a brain region outside of the conventional feeding network, as an important regulator of meal size. Neural activity of this region directs the suppression of food intake in mice, and this activity is abolished in human subjects with insatiable appetite. Their findings were published in the journal Nature on November 17, 2021.

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Scintillon Institute Investigator Awarded NIH R35 Early-Career Grant

Metabolism or the set of life-sustaining chemical reactions defines the very wellbeing of humans. But can we better understand how cellular metabolism goes awry in various human diseases? The National Institute of General Medical Sciences just granted Scintillon’s Dr. Valentin Cracan $2.4 million to find out more!


The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has recognized Dr. Valentin Cracan as one of the nation’s highly talented and promising scientists to receive a Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for Early-Stage Investigators (R35 MIRA-ESI).  This grant provides about $2.4 million over five years to support the ongoing work at the Cracan’s lab that has received a number of NIH grants already since it was established about 3 years ago. We spoke with Valentin as we were interested in his research in the context of his new, special grant. 



Valentin received his undergraduate degree in Biology and Biochemistry from the Moldova State University in the Republic of Moldova in 2005 and his Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from University of Michigan in 2012, where he studied the intracellular pathway for trafficking of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in the laboratory of Professor Ruma Banerjee.  While in graduate school, Valentin significantly contributed to our understanding of vitamin B12-dependent cell metabolism. In 2012, he joined the laboratory of Professor Vamsi Mootha at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. There, he obtained further training in studying mitochondria, the energy factories of our cells and major hubs of cellular metabolism. In the winter of 2018, Valentin joined the Scintillon Institute faculty as an Assistant Professor.

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Does science save lives during this pandemic?


- Did science save lives during this pandemic that we are still in?

- Are Biomedical and Bioengineering Sciences interesting and important subjects?


 “Yes!” many of today’s high school students will say that without hesitation.  But is science research a field where you want to build a career? Many students may still want to say “Yes…” but maybe blindly.


Scintillon Institute, a premium San Diego research institution for nonprofit purposes, has built its now famous Scintillon “SURE” (SUmmer REsearch) program to help top-performing high school students to find out for themselves whether conducting scientific research and becoming a career scientist is for them. 

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A New Twist in the Tale of Experimental Immunotherapies for Parkinson’s Disease

A new study co-led by Scintillon Institute’s Associate Professor, Dr. Rajesh Ambasudhan, and Adjunct Professor Dr. Stuart Lipton (also a practicing Neurologist at UC San Diego) shows that certain immunotherapy approaches for Parkinson’s disease (PD) may cause harmful neuroinflammation by activating microglia (brain’s immune cells) and that this adverse effect could offset therapeutic benefits elicited by the antibody treatment. The study appeared in the April 13, 2021 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.

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Celebrating Scintillon wins in early 2021

The Scintillon Institute is proud to announce the recent addition to its faculty, Dr. Albert Chen, a neurobiologist who specializes in examining the link between neural circuits and behavior in health and disease. 

Albert Chen joins Scintillon Institute as an Associate Professor of Neuroscience after spending eight years at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Research in his lab employs a multidisciplinary approach to define the molecular, anatomical, and functional distinctions of brain centers important for coordination and refinement of movement, motor learning, and complex motivated behaviors using genetic and viral circuit tracing, neural manipulations, deep brain imaging and quantitative behavioral approaches in mice.


The rising prevalence of obesity and eating disorders is a significant public health crisis, and dysfunctions of subcortical and hindbrain networks important for feeding behaviors and metabolism have been implicated. With a recently awarded R01 from the NIH, an exciting new project in the Chen lab aims to identify and characterize previously unknown components of the neural network that mediates food seeking and consumption, with a long-term goal of exploring the efficacy of drugs and brain stimulation as effective therapeutics for body weight control.

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