You are what you eat: influence of type and amount of food consumed on central dopamine systems and the behavioral effects of direct- and indirect-acting dopamine receptor agonists

Neuropharmacology. 2012 Jul;63(1):76-86. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Feb 23.


The important role of dopamine (DA) in mediating feeding behavior and the positive reinforcing effects of some drugs is well recognized. Less widely studied is how feeding conditions might impact the sensitivity of drugs acting on DA systems. Food restriction, for example, has often been the focus of aging and longevity studies; however, other studies have demonstrated that mild food restriction markedly increases sensitivity to direct- and indirect-acting DA receptor agonists. Moreover, it is becoming clear that not only the amount of food, but the type of food, is an important factor in modifying the effects of drugs. Given the increased consumption of high fat and sugary foods, studies are exploring how consumption of highly palatable food impacts DA neurochemistry and the effects of drugs acting on these systems. For example, eating high fat chow increases sensitivity to some behavioral effects of direct- as well as indirect-acting DA receptor agonists. A compelling mechanistic possibility is that central DA pathways that mediate the effects of some drugs are regulated by one or more of the endocrine hormones (e.g. insulin) that undergo marked changes during food restriction or after consuming high fat or sugary foods. Although traditionally recognized as an important signaling molecule in regulating energy homeostasis, insulin can also regulate DA neurochemistry. Because direct- and indirect-acting DA receptor drugs are used therapeutically and some are abused, a better understanding of how food intake impacts response to these drugs would likely facilitate improved treatment of clinical disorders and provide information that would be relevant to the causes of vulnerability to abuse drugs. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Central Control of Food Intake'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Agonists / pharmacology
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Humans


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Dopamine