Michael M. Scott


  • BS, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • MS, Queen's University
  • PhD, Case Western Reserve University

Primary Appointment

  • Assistant Professor, Pharmacology


Research Interest(s)

Neuronal circuits involved in the control of food intake and food reward using mouse genetic models

Research Description

Feeding behavior is a complex interplay between neural circuits that mediate the homeostatic and hedonic components of feeding. While homeostatic food intake sufficient for animal survival is governed by metabolic requirement, hedonically driven feeding is promoted by the rewarding properties of calorie dense food. Hedonic feeding in excess of metabolic demands is then a major contributor to the development of obesity and its co-morbidities.

Understanding the drive to feed and the neuronal pathways driving both homeostatic and hedonic feeding is the principle aim of the laboratory. Through gene deletion and re-expression studies, targeted to select brain nuclei, we aim to better understand the role of specific neurotransmitters, hormones and epigenetic processes in the regulation of feeding behavior.

My lab focuses on 2 principle areas of research:

Characterization of neurotransmitter systems involved in the hindbrain control of food intake and metabolism.

• Nucleus of the solitary tract neurons have been shown to be involved in the control of food intake. We have thus begun to look at specific populations of neurons within this structure and their role in the regulation of feeding.

Investigation of the genetic and epigenetic control of food reward in defined central nervous system nuclei.

• Neuropeptides such as orexin and peripheral hormones such as leptin have been suggested to affect the rewarding nature of palatable food. Our ability to delete and re-express leptin and orexin receptors in defined populations of neurons will allow us to determine the necessity and sufficiency of these receptors in the modulation of food reward.

• DNA methyltransferase activity in the adult brain has been shown to be required for the formation of spatial memories and for the development of cocaine place preference. We have started to examine the requirement for adult methyltransferase activity in an operant conditioning paradigm and in the development of place preference for palatable food.

Selected Publications

  • Gaykema R, Nguyen X, Boehret J, Lambeth P, Joy-Gaba J, Warthen D, Scott M. Characterization of excitatory and inhibitory neuron activation in the mouse medial prefrontal cortex following palatable food ingestion and food driven exploratory behavior. Frontiers in neuroanatomy. 2014;8 60. PMID: 25071465 | PMCID: PMC4076747
  • Williams K, Liu T, Kong X, Fukuda M, Deng Y, Berglund E, Deng Z, Gao Y, Liu T, Sohn J, Jia L, Fujikawa T, Kohno D, Scott M, Lee S, Lee C, Sun K, Chang Y, Scherer P, Elmquist J. Xbp1s in Pomc neurons connects ER stress with energy balance and glucose homeostasis. Cell metabolism. 2014;20(3): 471-82. PMID: 25017942 | PMCID: PMC4186248
  • Scott M, Perello M, Chuang J, Sakata I, Gautron L, Lee C, Lauzon D, Elmquist J, Zigman J. Hindbrain ghrelin receptor signaling is sufficient to maintain fasting glucose. PloS one. 2012;7(8): e44089. PMID: 22952883 | PMCID: PMC3432098
  • Williams K, Scott M, Elmquist J. Modulation of the central melanocortin system by leptin, insulin, and serotonin: co-ordinated actions in a dispersed neuronal network. European journal of pharmacology. 2011;660(1): 2-12. PMID: 21211525 | PMCID: PMC3085544
  • Donato J, Cravo R, Frazão R, Gautron L, Scott M, Lachey J, Castro I, Margatho L, Lee S, Lee C, Richardson J, Friedman J, Chua S, Coppari R, Zigman J, Elmquist J, Elias C. Leptin's effect on puberty in mice is relayed by the ventral premammillary nucleus and does not require signaling in Kiss1 neurons. The Journal of clinical investigation. 2010;121(1): 355-68. PMID: 21183787 | PMCID: PMC3007164
  • Gautron L, Lazarus M, Scott M, Saper C, Elmquist J. Identifying the efferent projections of leptin-responsive neurons in the dorsomedial hypothalamus using a novel conditional tracing approach. The Journal of comparative neurology. 2010;518(11): 2090-108. PMID: 20394060 | PMCID: PMC3198871
  • Williams K, Margatho L, Lee C, Choi M, Lee S, Scott M, Elias C, Elmquist J. Segregation of acute leptin and insulin effects in distinct populations of arcuate proopiomelanocortin neurons. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2010;30(7): 2472-9. PMID: 20164331 | PMCID: PMC2836776
  • Scott M, Lachey J, Sternson S, Lee C, Elias C, Friedman J, Elmquist J. Leptin targets in the mouse brain. The Journal of comparative neurology. 2009;514(5): 518-32. PMID: 19350671 | PMCID: PMC2710238
  • Williams K, Scott M, Elmquist J. From observation to experimentation: leptin action in the mediobasal hypothalamus. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2009;89(3): 985S-990S. PMID: 19176744 | PMCID: PMC2667659
  • Jensen P, Farago A, Awatramani R, Scott M, Deneris E, Dymecki S. Redefining the serotonergic system by genetic lineage. Nature neuroscience. 2008;11(4): 417-9. PMID: 18344997 | PMCID: PMC2897136