The affect of hunger on brain health

By Mariam Malik ‘22

Figure 1. Irritability and moods of anger and depression can result from bad eating habits.

It is not uncommon to hear to blame a moment of overreaction on being hungry. However, the connection between the two has not been greatly explored until recently. At the University of Guelph in Canada, PhD student Thomas Homran led an experiment on mice to see what it is that makes us “hangry”.

In one small room, a group of rats were being injected with substance that would prevent the glucose in their food from being broken down, triggering hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is the lack of blood glucose, often perpetuated by the lack of food consumption for an extended period of time. A different group of rats in another room were simply injected with water as a control. When the rats were given the decision to choose between the rooms, they went for the one where they were being treated with water.

After being injected with the substance that prevents glucose from being broken down, the rats experienced stress, which was evident from high levels of corticosterone, a hormone that signals physiological stress, in their blood. When hypoglycemic, the rats were lazier than when their blood levels were normal, and they had bouts of depression.

For those with anxiety and/or depression, the findings of this experiment may help to bring another form of treatment. If negative moods and negative eating habits, such as skipping a meal or not eating for a few hours, are linked, then this could also bring more insight into the connection between depression and obesity, diabetes, and other diseases with a basis in diet.



  1. T. Horman, et. al., AAn exploration of the aversive properties of 2-deoxy-D-glucose in rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 235, 3055-3063 (2018). doi:  
  2. Image retrieved from:,_Aberdeen,_Scotland,_1998_Wellcome_L0060083.jpg

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