NY-Based Brazilian Neuroscientist Studies Relationship Between Obesity and Depression

Ivan de Araujo investigates how the interaction between mind and body affects personal choices

Danielle Brant
Nova York

Born in São Paulo and raised in Brasília, Ivan de Araújo studied Philosophy, Math, Computer Science, and Artificial Intelligence. A neuroscientist for which many reputed universities have fought over, he now explores the interaction between mind and body.

Many important scientific journals have featured his research. A recent article, for example, showed that stimulating the stomach triggers a pleasure sensation in the brain, going beyond the underlying feeling of fullness. Now, he is starting to investigate the connection between obesity and depression, to improve treatments for the mental disorder.

Since August, he has been working from his new workplace, a laboratory at the Neuroscience department at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. Previously, Araújo worked for 11 years at the Psychiatry department at Yale University.

Brazilian neuroscientist Ivan de Araujo - Courtesy Mount Sinai

He arrived at the United States in 2204, to do his post-doctorate at Duke University, North Carolina, where he learned about genetically modified mice that couldn't taste certain flavors. "I wanted to see if these mice would like sugar regardless if they could taste it. In the beginning, they ignored it completely, but as time passed, they started to seek sugar, more and more," he said.

At a certain point, the modified mice were eating as much sugar as their counterpart that could taste sweet flavors. But the craving wasn't related to the flavors themselves, because tests performed with artificial sweeteners didn't yield the same results. 

The modified mice were after the calories contained in the sugared food.

As he observed the neuronal activity in the mice's brains, Araújo noticed that they released dopamine in the same quantity as normal mice.

"This neurotransmitter is fundamental to any induced behavior: running, drug abuse, food, sex. When you kill these cells, the animals become completely indifferent to everything. They die of starvation."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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