Modulation of feeding-induced activation of mesolimbic dopamine transmission by appetitive stimuli and its relation to motivational state

Eur J Neurosci. 1999 Dec;11(12):4389-97. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.1999.00843.x.


We have previously shown in non-deprived rats that feeding of an unfamiliar palatable food (Fonzies(R)) phasically stimulates in vivo dopamine (DA) transmission in the medial nucleus accumbens (NAc) and this effect undergoes habituation after a previous (24 h) Fonzies meal (Bassareo & Di Chiara 1997, J. Neurosci., 17, 851-861). The present study shows that an unfamiliar food (Kinder(R)) with a taste and composition (milk chocolate) different from that of Fonzies, also induces a release of DA in the NAc subjected to one-trial habituation. Habituation was taste specific as no cross-habituation was observed between Fonzies and Kinder. In undeprived rats, a 40-min exposure to an intrinsic appetitive stimulus (food smell arising from a Fonzies-filled plastic box) also prevented the increase in dialysate DA associated with Fonzies feeding, and this effect was partially reversed by food deprivation. Food deprivation also prevented habituation of Fonzies-induced increase of dialysate DA in the NAc. Predictive association of an empty plastic box to Fonzies feeding resulted in the acquisition of appetitive properties by the box and in facilitation (rather than inhibition) of the phasic responsiveness of DA transmission to Fonzies feeding. A 10-min pre-exposure to appetitive olfactory stimuli intrinsic to Fonzies still prevented, like a 40-min pre-exposure, the NAc DA response to Fonzies feeding; however, a 5-min pre-exposure to these appetitive stimuli did not prevent the DA response in the NAc. These results show that the phasic responsiveness of NAc DA transmission to an unfamiliar palatable food is under strong modulatory control by primary (consummatory) and secondary (appetitive) stimuli, and that the sign and extent of this control depends on the nature of the appetitive stimulus, delay of reward and motivational state (deprivation).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Food Deprivation / physiology
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Foods, Specialized
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Motivation*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Dopamine