Leading Israeli Daily Names HU Young Faculty Member as one of Israel's Promising Scientists

Dr. Yoni Kupchik has earned the title of 'promising young scientist' from Israeli business daily, Calcalist, for his research unveiling similar neurological underpinnings between obesity and cocaine addiction. Kupchik is a member of the  of the Department of Medical Neurobiology atHebrew University’s Hadassah Medical Schooland conducts research on the neurological effects of addiction. His research focuses on the brain’s lack of control as a result of addictive behaviors.

What is interesting," Kupchik explained, "is that the brain has a natural defense mechanism to fight addiction." Normally, the brain directs the body to behave in a beneficiary way. Under addiction this natural instinct is damaged, causing the brain to let the body harm itself," he elaborated.

Kupchik studied the part of the brain that regulates responses to rewards and motor functions in cocaine addicted rats and discovered that the nucleus accumbens is responsible for the brain overpowering its own natural defense mechanism to addiction.

Intrigued, Kupchik, decide to investigate the connection between overeating and the natural reward response system in the brain. When he replaced cocaine with fatty foods and foods with excess sugar the rats responded like their cocaine addicted peers, constantly signaling for more food and as a result growing obese.  Kupchik discovered that the neurological reaction that caused the rats to eat more food was the same as one that pushed the others to "need" cocaine.

"People who suffer from obesity describe themselves as unable to stop eating,”  Kupchik explained. “Often obesity is connected to a slow metabolism or an eating disorder but my research proves that --at least in rats-- obesity stems from the reward system in our brains.”

It is still too early to apply Kupchik’s research to humans, but it his work has given scientists yet another direction in understanding the causes of addiction.