Food intake is essential for survival, but maladaptive patterns of intake, possibly encoded by a preexisting vulnerability coupled with the influence of environmental variables, can modify the reward value of food. Impulsivity, a predisposition toward rapid unplanned reactions to stimuli, is one of the multifaceted determinants underlying the etiology of dysregulated eating and its evolving pathogenesis. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is a major neural director of reward-driven behavior and impulsivity. Compromised signaling between the mPFC and nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) is thought to underlie the cognitive inability to withhold prepotent responses (motor impulsivity) and binge intake of high-fat food (HFF) seen in binge eating disorder. To explore the relationship between motor impulsivity and binge-like eating in rodents, we identified high (HI) and low impulsive (LI) rats in the 1-choice serial reaction time task and employed a rat model of binge-like eating behavior. HFF binge rats consumed significantly greater calories relative to control rats maintained on continual access to standard food or HFF. HI rats repeatedly exhibited significantly higher bingeing on HFF vs. LI rats. Next, we employed dual viral vector chemogenetic technology which allows for the targeted and isolated modulation of ventral mPFC (vmPFC) neurons that project to the NAcSh. Chemogenetic activation of the vmPFC to NAcSh pathway significantly suppressed motor impulsivity and binge-like intake for high-fat food. Thus, inherent motor impulsivity and binge-like eating are linked and the vmPFC to NAcSh pathway serves as a ‘brake’ over both behaviors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health