Chocoholic mice fear no pain

A study in BMC Neuroscience has shown that chocolate-craving mice will tolerate electric shocks to get their fix.

Rossella Ventura worked with a team of researchers from the Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome, Italy, to study the links between stress and compulsive food-seeking. She said, ‘We used a new model of compulsive behaviour to test whether a previous stressful experience of hunger might override a conditioned response to avoid a certain kind of food – in this case, chocolate’.

Ventura and her colleagues first trained well-fed mice and starved mice to seek chocolate in one chamber rather than going into an empty chamber. They then added a mild electric shock to the chamber containing the chocolate.

Unsurprisingly, the well-fed mice avoided the chocolate. However, mice that had previously been starved, before being allowed to eat their way back up their normal weight, resisted this conditioning and continued to seek out chocolate despite the painful consequences.

This is an index of compulsive behavior, and the researchers claim that this matches compulsive food seeking in the face of negative consequences in humans.

The full article, ‘Food seeking in spite of harmful consequences is under prefrontal cortical noradrenergic control’, is available at the BMC Neuroscience website.

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