Food craving can be viewed as an intense desire for a specific food that propagates seeking and consuming behavior. Prolonged forced abstinence from rewarding foods can result in escalated food-seeking behavior as measured via elevated responding for food-paired cues in the absence of the primary reward. Palatable food consumption and food-seeking is associated with changes in the abundance and composition of AMPA receptors in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) but differing results have been reported. The present study examined whether different food types could produce escalated food-seeking behavior after various abstinence periods and whether this was associated with changes in AMPA receptor protein levels. Rats were trained for 10 days to bar press for purified, sucrose, or chocolate-flavored sucrose pellets. Rats were tested at 24 hrs, 7 d or 14 d whereby bar pressing resulted in presentation of cues paired with food but no food reward was delivered. Western blotting was used to determine protein levels of GluR1, GluR1pSer845, and GluR2 in the NAc. Three separate groups were assessed: 1) a group that was trained on the operant task and tested for conditioned responding (tested group); 2) a group that was trained on the operant task but not tested (non-tested group); 3) a group that was neither trained nor tested (control). The purified food group showed a time-dependent elevation in conditioned bar pressing over the 3 abstinence periods. GluR1 AMPAr subunit levels were higher in the purified and sucrose groups tested at 24 hours compared to the non-tested and control values. GluR1 levels subsequently declined at the 7- and 14-day abstinence periods in the purified and sucrose tested and non-tested groups compared to control values. GluR2 and pSer845 Glur1 levels were similar across all groups and abstinence periods. These results show that food-seeking behavior associated with forced abstinence from different food rewards may depend on the macronutrient composition of the food reward or the food type given during the abstinence period. A clear link with AMPAr subunit levels in this model was not established.

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Behavioural Brain Research
Department of Neuroscience

Noye Tuplin, E.W. (Erin W.), Wright, M.T. (Madi T.), & Holahan, M.R. (2019). Different periods of forced abstinence after instrumental learning for food reward of different macronutrient value on responding for conditioned cues and AMPAr subunit levels. Behavioural Brain Research, 375. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112141