Entrainment by a palatable meal induces food-anticipatory activity and c-Fos expression in reward-related areas of the brain

Neuroscience. 2005;133(1):293-303. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.01.064.


Rats maintained under restricted feeding schedules (RFS) develop food-anticipatory activity and entrainment of physiological parameters. Food entrainment is independent of the suprachiasmatic nucleus and depends on food-entrainable oscillators (FEO). Restricted feeding schedules lead animals toward a catabolic state and to increase their food driven motivation, suggesting that in this process metabolic- and reward-related mechanisms are implicated. This study explored if motivation driven by a palatable meal is sufficient to produce food-entrainment. To address this question, we evaluated whether daily fixed access to a highly palatable meal entrained (PME) locomotor activity, serum glucose and free fatty acids concentrations in rats maintained without food deprivation. The entrained response of PME rats was compared with rats entrained to RFS. In a second experiment, we used c-Fos-IR to identify structures in the central nervous system involved with PME. Rats showed anticipatory activity to a daily palatable meal, with a lower intensity than rats entrained to RFS. Anticipatory activity persisted at least for four cycles after interrupting palatable meal, suggesting that this persistence depends on an endogenous oscillator. Glucose and free fatty acids were not entrained in PME rats. c-Fos expression in limbic system nuclei was in phase with PME time, but not in the hypothalamus. Results suggest 1) that food deprivation, i.e. a catabolic state is not necessary for the expression of anticipatory activity; 2) that an increase in the motivational state due to taste and/or nutritional contents of palatable meal is sufficient to entrain behavior; and 3) that structures in the limbic system are involved in this entrainment process. The present study indicates that metabolic and motivational mechanisms are involved in food entrainment, and suggests that the FEO may be a multi-oscillatory system distributed over different regulatory systems in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Cell Count
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Genes, fos / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Limbic System / cytology
  • Limbic System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reward*