Random access to palatable food stimulates similar addiction-like responses as a fixed schedule, but only a fixed schedule elicits anticipatory activation (2020)

Sci Rep. 2019 Dec 3;9(1):18223. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54540-0.

Muñoz-Escobar G1, Guerrero-Vargas NN1, Escobar C2.


Restricted intermittent food access to palatable food (PF) induces addiction-like behaviors and plastic changes in corticolimbic brain areas. Intermittent access protocols normally schedule PF to a fixed time, enabling animals to predict the arrival of PF. Because outside the laboratory the presence of PF may occur in a random unpredictable manner, the present study explored whether random access to PF would stimulate similar addiction-like responses as observed under a fixed scheduled. Rats were randomly assigned to a control group without chocolate access, to ad libitum access to chocolate, to fixed intermittent access (CH-F), or to random unpredictable access (CH-R) to chocolate. Only the CH-F group developed behavioral and core temperature anticipation to PF access. Both groups exposed to intermittent access to PF showed binge eating, increased effort behaviors to obtain chocolate, as well as high FosB/ΔFosB in corticolimbic areas. Moreover, FosB/ΔFosB in all areas correlated with the intensity of binge eating and effort behaviors. We conclude that both conditions of intermittent access to PF stimulate addiction-like behaviors and FosB/ΔFosB accumulation in brain reward areas; while only a fixed schedule, which provides a time clue, elicited anticipatory activation, which is strongly associated with craving behaviors and may favor relapse during withdrawal.

PMID: 31796782

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-54540-0