Activation of basal forebrain-to-lateral habenula circuitry drives reflexive aversion and suppresses feeding behavior

Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 21;12(1):22044. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26306-8.


Environmental cues and internal states such as mood, reward, or aversion directly influence feeding behaviors beyond homeostatic necessity. The hypothalamus has been extensively investigated for its role in homeostatic feeding. However, many of the neural circuits that drive more complex, non-homeostatic feeding that integrate valence and sensory cues (such as taste and smell) remain unknown. Here, we describe a basal forebrain (BF)-to-lateral habenula (LHb) circuit that directly modulates non-homeostatic feeding behavior. Using viral-mediated circuit mapping, we identified a population of glutamatergic neurons within the BF that project to the LHb, which responds to diverse sensory cues, including aversive and food-related odors. Optogenetic activation of BF-to-LHb circuitry drives robust, reflexive-like aversion. Furthermore, activation of this circuitry suppresses the drive to eat in a fasted state. Together, these data reveal a role of basal forebrain glutamatergic neurons in modulating LHb-associated aversion and feeding behaviors by sensing environmental cues.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Basal Forebrain* / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Habenula* / physiology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology