Chronic food restriction enhances dopamine-mediated intracranial self-stimulation

Neuroreport. 2021 Sep 8;32(13):1128-1133. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000001700.


Dopamine-mediated reinforcement and behavioral adaptation is essential to survival. Here, we test the effects of food restriction on dopamine-mediated learning and reinforcement using optical intracranial self-stimulation (oICSS), an optogenetic version of conventional electrical ICSS (also known as brain stimulation reward, BSR). Using mouse genetic lines to express channelrhodopsin selectively in midbrain dopamine neurons, we demonstrate that genetically expressed channelrhodopsin can mediate optically evoked dopamine release and support self-stimulation in a lever-pressing paradigm. Using this midbrain dopamine oICSS preparation, we compare acquisition and rate of pressing in ad libitum versus food restricted mice. Food restriction facilitated both more rapid acquisition of self-stimulation behavior and higher rates of responding; reversing food status after acquisition modulated response vigor in already established behavior. These data suggest that food restriction enhances both the acquisition and expression of dopamine-reinforced self-stimulation responding. These data demonstrate the utility of oICSS for examining changes in reinforcement learning concomitant to neuroadaptations induced in dopamine signaling by experimental manipulations such as food restriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopaminergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Reward*
  • Self Stimulation*


  • Dopamine