Changes in reward-induced neural activity upon Cafeteria Diet consumption
AuthorHeijkoop, Roy; Ferrer Lalanza, Jaume; Solanas, Montserrat; Álvarez-Monell, Adam; Subias-Gusils, Alex; Escorihuela, Rosa; Snoeren, Eelke Mirthe Simone
Excessive consumption of highly palatable foods rich in sugar and fat, often referred to as “junk” or “fast” foods, plays a central role in the development of obesity. The highly palatable characteristics of these foods activate hedonic and motivational mechanisms to promote food-seeking behavior and overeating, which is largely regulated by the brain reward system. Excessive junk food consumption can alter the functioning of this reward system, but exact mechanisms of these changes are still largely unknown. This study investigated whether long-term junk food consumption, in the form of Cafeteria (CAF) diet, can alter the reward system in adult, female Long-Evans rats, and whether different regimes of CAF diet influence the extent of these changes. To this end, rats were exposed to a 6-week diet with either standard chow, or ad libitum daily access to CAF diet, 30 % restricted but daily access to CAF diet, or one-day-a-week (intermittent) ad libitum access to CAF diet, after which c-Fos expression in the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc), Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), and Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) following consumption of a CAF reward of choice was examined. We found that all CAF diet regimes decreased c-Fos expression in the NAc-shell when presented with a CAF reward, while no changes in c-Fos expression upon the different diet regimes were found in the PFC, and possibly the VTA. Our data suggests that long-term junk food exposure can affect the brain reward system, resulting in an attenuated activity of the NAc-shell.