Changes in Food Perception May Fine-Tune Neuronal Excitability in Mice
Cues that predict food availability help retrieve memories about food and evoke food-seeking behaviors in laboratory animals. Sparse sets of behaviorally activated neurons called ‘neuronal ensembles’ in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a key brain area involved in reward, play an important role in cue-evoked food seeking.
The behavioral reactions to cues can change depending on the perceived attractiveness of food. For instance, excessively consuming one food item decreases the rewarding value of food or ‘devalues’ it. However, to date, the neuronal ensemble mechanisms of reward devaluation are largely unknown.
Here, the authors demonstrate how devaluation of food reward decreases cue-evoked food seeking and NAc ensemble recruitment. Devaluation of food reward also eliminated the normally observed excitability differences between cue-activated, ensemble neurons and their surrounding non-ensemble neurons.
The results of this study suggest that decreased responding to food-associated cues when food becomes less desirable are due to changes in the excitability of NAc neurons.
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Reward Devaluation Attenuates Cue-Evoked Sucrose Seeking and Is Associated with the Elimination of Excitability Differences between Ensemble and Non-ensemble Neurons in the Nucleus Accumbens
Meike C. Sieburg, Joseph J. Ziminski, Gabriella Margetts-Smith, Hayley M. Reeve, Leonie S. Brebner, Hans S. Crombag, and Eisuke Koya