VIPergic neurons of the infralimbic and prelimbic cortices control palatable food intake through separate cognitive pathways

JCI Insight. 2019 Apr 2;5(9):e126283. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.126283.


The prefrontal cortex controls food reward seeking and ingestion, playing important roles in directing attention, regulating motivation towards reward pursuit, and the assignment of reward salience and value. The cell types that mediate these behavioral functions, however, are not well described. We report here that optogenetic activation of vasoactive peptide expressing (VIP) interneurons in both the infralimbic (IL) and prelimbic (PL) divisions of the medial prefrontal cortex in mice is sufficient to reduce acute, binge-like intake of high calorie palatable food in the absence of any effect on low calorie rodent chow intake in the sated animal. In addition, we discovered that the behavioral mechanisms associated with these changes in feeding differed between animals that underwent either IL or PL VIPergic stimulation. While IL VIP neurons showed the ability to reduce palatable food intake, this effect was dependent upon the novelty and relative value of the food source. In addition, IL VIP neuron activation significantly reduced novel object- and novel social investigative behavior. Activation of PL VIP neurons, however, produced a reduction in high calorie palatable food intake that was independent of food novelty. Neither IL nor PL VIP excitation changed motivation to obtain food reward. Our data show how neurochemically-defined populations of cortical interneurons can regulate specific aspects of food reward-driven behavior, resulting in a selective reduction in intake of highly valued food.

Keywords: Homeostasis; Metabolism; Neuroscience; Obesity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Cognition
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Food
  • Homeostasis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Obesity
  • Optogenetics*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reward
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism*


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide