Neuroscience. 2006;139(3):813-20. Epub 2006 Feb 7.
Drinking a sugar solution on an intermittent schedule can promote sugar bingeing and cause signs of dependence while releasing dopamine repeatedly like a drug of abuse. It is hypothesized that sweet taste alone is sufficient for this effect in sucrose bingeing rats. On the theory that acetylcholine in the nucleus accumbens plays a role in satiety, it is further hypothesized that purging the stomach contents will delay acetylcholine release. Rats with gastric fistulas and nucleus accumbens guide shafts for microdialysis were fed 12 h each day. During the first hour, fistulas were open for the sham-feeding group and closed for the real-feeding group, and 10% sucrose was the only food source. For the remaining 11 h, liquid rodent diet was available as well as the 10% sucrose to provide a balanced diet. In microdialysis tests during the first sugar meal on days 1, 2 and 21, extracellular dopamine increased at least 30% each day in both groups. Acetylcholine also increased during the sugar meals for the real-feeding animals, but not during sham feeding. In conclusion, the taste of sugar can increase extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens without fail in animals on a dietary regimen that causes bingeing and sugar dependency. During sham feeding, the acetylcholine satiation signal is eliminated, and the animals drink more. These findings support the hypothesis that dopamine is released repeatedly in response to taste when bingeing on sweet food, and the acetylcholine satiety effect is greatly reduced by purging; this may be relevant to bulimia nervosa in humans.