Mice fed a single daily meal at intervals within the circadian range exhibit food anticipatory activity. Previous investigations strongly suggest that this behaviour is regulated by a circadian pacemaker entrained to the timing of fasting/refeeding. The neural correlate(s) of this pacemaker, the food entrainable oscillator (FEO), whether found in a neural network or a single locus, remain unknown. This study used a canonical property of circadian pacemakers, the ability to continue oscillating after removal of the entraining stimulus, to isolate activation within the neural correlates of food entrainable oscillator from all other mechanisms driving food anticipatory activity. It was hypothesized that continued anticipatory activation of central nuclei, after restricted feeding and a return to ad libitum feeding, would elucidate a neural representation of the signaling circuits responsible for the timekeeping component of the food entrainable oscillator. Animals were entrained to a temporally constrained meal then placed back on ad libitum feeding for several days until food anticipatory activity was abolished. Activation of nuclei throughout the brain was quantified using stereological analysis of c-FOS expressing cells and compared against both ad libitum fed and food entrained controls. Several hypothalamic and brainstem nuclei remained activated at the previous time of food anticipation, implicating them in the timekeeping mechanism necessary to track previous meal presentation. This study also provides a proof of concept for an experimental paradigm useful to further investigate the anatomical and molecular substrates of the FEO.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0036117
Journal PLoS ONE
Blum, I.D. (Ian David), Lamont, E.W. (Elaine Waddington), Rodrigues, T, & Abizaid, A. (2012). Isolating neural correlates of the pacemaker for food anticipation. PLoS ONE, 7(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036117