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PLOS ONE  2012 

Palatable Meal Anticipation in Mice

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012903

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The ability to sense time and anticipate events is a critical skill in nature. Most efforts to understand the neural and molecular mechanisms of anticipatory behavior in rodents rely on daily restricted food access, which induces a robust increase of locomotor activity in anticipation of daily meal time. Interestingly, rats also show increased activity in anticipation of a daily palatable meal even when they have an ample food supply, suggesting a role for brain reward systems in anticipatory behavior, and providing an alternate model by which to study the neurobiology of anticipation in species, such as mice, that are less well adapted to “stuff and starve” feeding schedules. To extend this model to mice, and exploit molecular genetic resources available for that species, we tested the ability of wild-type mice to anticipate a daily palatable meal. We observed that mice with free access to regular chow and limited access to highly palatable snacks of chocolate or “Fruit Crunchies” avidly consumed the snack but did not show anticipatory locomotor activity as measured by running wheels or video-based behavioral analysis. However, male mice receiving a snack of high fat chow did show increased food bin entry prior to access time and a modest increase in activity in the two hours preceding the scheduled meal. Interestingly, female mice did not show anticipation of a daily high fat meal but did show increased activity at scheduled mealtime when that meal was withdrawn. These results indicate that anticipation of a scheduled food reward in mice is behavior, diet, and gender specific.


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