PerspectiveNeuroscience

Neurons that drive and quench thirst

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1092-1093
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5574

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Summary

Thirst is a vital primordial emotion that motivates fluid intake to compensate for incessant water loss incurred as a result of breathing, sweating, and urine production. Indeed, the maintenance of adequate hydration is a prerequisite for life and, accordingly, the desire to drink emerges as soon as the body's water content declines by 1 to 2%, and this feeling intensifies progressively with further depletion (13). Although regions in the brain that are critical for water intake have been known for more than 60 years, the identification and functional analysis of thirst-related neurons only became possible with the recent advent of genetically targeted photoactivation and photometry, methods that respectively allow manipulation and monitoring of electrical activity in vivo, using fiber-optic microprobes (47). On page 1149 of this issue, Allen et al. (8) reveal the existence of neurons that specifically encode the intensity and aversive quality of thirst within the median preoptic nucleus (MnPO) of the hypothalamus.