The conditioned place preference (CPP) procedure has been used to study the incubation of craving phenomenon with rewarding drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. The present study examined whether rats trained in a CPP behavioral design would display an incubation of craving response for chocolate-flavored pellets or milk chocolate chips at the behavioral and neural levels. Rats were conditioned using an unbiased CPP design then underwent abstinence from food reward for 24 hs, 7, 14, or 28 days at which point they were tested for CPP. Brains underwent immunohistochemical staining for c-Fos and FosB as well as Golgi staining to assess dendritic spine density in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). A time-dependent increase in CPP and entries into the previously paired compartment was observed in the chocolate-flavored pellet group but not the milk chocolate group. Time-dependent neural changes were not directly associated with behavioral outcomes but c-Fos labelling was higher in the chocolate pellet group than controls at the 7-day abstinence period. The behavioral results show that chocolate pellets are rewarding and are associated with long-term behavioral changes but, as evidenced by limited neural changes, these food rewards do not have the same effects on the NAc as drugs of abuse.

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Behavioural Brain Research
Department of Neuroscience

Noye Tuplin, E.W. (Erin W.), & Holahan, M.R. (2019). Exploring time-dependent changes in conditioned place preference for food reward and associated changes in the nucleus accumbens. Behavioural Brain Research, 361, 14–25. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2018.12.031