Norepinephrine in the medial pre-frontal cortex supports accumbens shell responses to a novel palatable food in food-restricted mice only

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Previous findings from this laboratory demonstrate: (1) that different classes of addictive drugs require intact norepinephrine (NE) transmission in the medial pre Frontal Cortex (mpFC) to promote conditioned place preference and to increase dopamine (DA) tone in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAc Shell); (2) that only food-restricted mice require intact NE transmission in the mpFC to develop conditioned preference for a context associated with milk chocolate; and (3) that food-restricted mice show a significantly larger increase of mpFC NE outflow then free fed mice when experiencing the palatable food for the first time. In the present study we tested the hypothesis that only the high levels of frontal cortical NE elicited by the natural reward in food restricted mice stimulate mesoaccumbens DA transmission. To this aim we investigated the ability of a first experience with milk chocolate to increase DA outflow in the accumbens Shell and c-fos expression in striatal and limbic areas of food–restricted and ad-libitum fed mice. Moreover, we tested the effects of a selective depletion of frontal cortical NE on both responses in either feeding group. Only in food-restricted mice milk chocolate induced an increase of DA outflow beyond baseline in the accumbens Shell and a c-fos expression larger than that promoted by a novel inedible object in the nucleus accumbens. Moreover, depletion of frontal cortical NE selectively prevented both the increase of DA outflow and the large expression of c-fos promoted by milk chocolate in the NAc Shell of food-restricted mice. These findings support the conclusion that in food-restricted mice a novel palatable food activates the motivational circuit engaged by addictive drugs and support the development of noradrenergic pharmacology of motivational disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Jan 26 2018


  • Addiction
  • Incentive motivation
  • Motivational circuits
  • Novelty response
  • Salient stimuli
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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