Impairment of fear-conditioning responses and changes of brain neurotrophic factors in diet-induced obese mice

J Neuroendocrinol. 2012 Aug;24(8):1120-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2012.02327.x.


Recent epidemiological studies demonstrate that obesity is related to a high incidence of cognitive impairment. In the present study, cognitive behaviours in diet-induced obese (DIO) mice fed 60% high-fat diet for 16 weeks were compared with those in mice fed a control diet (CD) in fear-conditioning tests including both contextual and cued elements that preferentially depend on the hippocampus and amygdala, respectively. Furthermore, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) content in the brain areas was examined in both CD and DIO mice. In fear-conditioning tests, the freezing percentages of both contextual fear and cued fear responses in DIO mice were significantly lower than in CD mice. BDNF content in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus of DIO mice was significantly lower than that in CD mice. Its receptor, full-length TrkB, in the amygdala of DIO mice was significantly decreased compared to that in CD mice, although not in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and hypothalamus. By contrast, NT-3 content in the hippocampus, amygdala and hypothalamus of DIO mice was significantly higher than that in CD mice. Its receptor, full-length TrkC, was not significantly different between CD and DIO mice. The present study demonstrates that DIO mice show impairment of both hippocampus-dependent contextual and amygdala-dependent cued responses in the fear-conditioning tests, as well as an imbalance in the interaction between the BDNF and NT-3 systems in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala related to cognition and fear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Conditioning, Classical*
  • Diet*
  • Fear*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • neurotropin 3, mouse