PublicationsMidbrain and lateral nucleus accumbens dopamine depletion affects free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet preference in male rats
Dopamine influences food intake behavior. Reciprocally, food intake, especially of palatable dietary items, can modulate dopamine-related brain circuitries. Among these reciprocal impacts, it has been observed that an increased intake of dietary fat results in blunted dopamine signaling and, to compensate this lowered dopamine function, caloric intake may subsequently increase. To determine how dopamine regulates food preference we performed 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions, depleting dopamine in specific brain regions in male Sprague Dawley rats. Food preference was assessed by providing the rats with free choice access to control diet, fat, 20% sucrose and tap water. Rats with midbrain lesions targeting the substantia nigra (which is also a model of Parkinson’s disease) consumed fewer calories, as reflected by a decrease in control diet intake, but they surprisingly displayed an increase in fat intake, without change in the sucrose solution intake compared to sham animals. To determine which of the midbrain dopamine projections may contribute to this effect, we next compared the impact of 6-OHDA lesions of terminal fields, targeting the dorsal striatum, the lateral nucleus accumbens and the medial nucleus accumbens. We found that 6-OHDA lesion of the lateral nucleus accumbens, but not of the dorsal striatum or the medial nucleus accumbens, led to increased fat intake. These findings indicate a role for lateral nucleus accumbens dopamine in regulating food preference, in particular the intake of fat.