Behavioural brain research

Manipulation of GABA in the ventral pallidum, but not the nucleus accumbens, induces intense, preferential, fat consumption in rats.

PMID 24867334


Injections of the GABAA antagonist bicuculline into the medial ventral pallidum (VPm) induce marked increases in food intake, but nothing is known about the way in which these injections alter the distribution of intake in a macronutrient selection situation. We investigated this topic by adapting rats to a diet containing independent sources of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and then examining the effects of intra-VPm bicuculline on diet selection. Under these conditions, bicuculline produced a massive, preferential increase in fat intake with subjects consuming a mean of 97% of their calories from fat. Furthermore, all treated subjects ate fat before any other macronutrient, suggesting that the animals' behavior was directed selectively toward this dietary component even before consumption had begun. Similar effects were not observed following food deprivation, which exerted its largest effect on carbohydrate intake. To compare the intra-VPm bicuculline response to that seen after activation of GABA receptors in the nucleus accumbens shell (AcbSh), a major source of projections to the VPm, we conducted similar experiments with intra-AcbSh injections of muscimol and baclofen. These injections also enhanced food intake, but did not reproduce the selective preference for fat seen after intra-VPm bicuculline. These experiments provide the first demonstration of preferential enhancement of fat intake following manipulations of a nonpeptide neurotransmitter. Since mean intakes of fat under baseline conditions and after deprivation tended to be lower than those of carbohydrates, it seems unlikely that the effects of intra-VPm bicuculline are related to the intrinsic "rewarding" properties of fat, but might rather reflect the induction of a state of "fat craving."