Frank Meye

Neuroscience Symposium

The Neuroscience Symposia are organized weekly by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. The presentations are given by researchers from the institute or by guest speakers. The title and content of the symposium is usually made known in the week prior to the presentation.

Colloquium room – Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience

Guest speaker postdocs

4pm – Comfort for the troubled mind: Unravelling the neural basis for stress-feeding
5pm – Followed by drinks


Stressful events can form a potent trigger to overconsume palatable high-caloric food, representing a core problem in obesity and several (binge) eating disorders. However, the exact neural circuit adaptations governing this behavior remain limitedly understood. A candidate substrate is the midbrain dopamine system, originating in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which plays a crucial role in the motivation to obtain (food) rewards and which receives input from stress-sensitive hypothalamic regions implicated in food intake. However, it currently remains unclear whether hypothalamic control of the VTA is altered by stress and what role it plays in stress-driven alterations in feeding patterns. Here we combined optogenetics and slice electrophysiology in mice to show social stress-driven potentiation of glutamatergic hypothalamic-VTA synapses. Using in vivo calcium photometric approaches we show that the induction of the plasticity can involve immediate activity of the pathway during the acute phase of the social stress. Behavioral analysis shows that the same social stress driving this plasticity engenders a proclivity to consume sugar and fat, in a binge-like pattern. Using in vivo optogenetic approaches we assess the relevance of stress-altered hypothalamic-VTA control in feeding choices. Finally, we also address the involvement of dopamine-sensitive circuitry downstream of the VTA in mediating (stress-driven) overeating.