Special Issue "Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior"

A special issue of Nutrients (ISSN 2072-6643). This special issue belongs to the section "Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2020) | Viewed by 19307

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Maria Scherma
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Division of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato, Italy
Interests: eating disorders; psychiatric disorders; addiction; endocannabinoid system; behavioral neuroscience; animal models of eating disorders
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Paola Fadda
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Division of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, 09042 Monserrato, Italy
Interests: psychiatric disorders; eating disorders; addiction; dopaminergic system; endocannabinoid system; behavioral neuroscience; eating behavior; animal models of eating disorders
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Fabrizio Sanna
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Section of Neuroscience and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Cagliari, 09100 Cagliari, Italy
Interests: motivated behavior; sexual behavior; food intake; oxytocin; dopamine; hypothalamus; mesocorticolimbic system; individual differences; neuroplasticity
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Eating involves a broad array of behaviors and is essential to the survival, growth, and reproduction of each organism. It can be distinguished in metabolic and motivational (i.e., appetitive and rewarding) components. Most people know when, how much, and what to eat, while others find eating very difficult to control. During the past half-century, eating disorders, in their various diversified and complex forms (i.e., anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorders), as well as overweight/obesity and other diet-related disorders, have assumed the entity of a real social emergency due to the deleterious effects that they exert on the physical and mental health of the affected individuals. Although research in this field has increased dramatically, there is still a need to broaden the knowledge both on the neurobiological correlates of “normative” eating behavior and concerning the etiology that underlies these disorders. A growing body of evidence highlights the crucial role of an altered reward/motivation function in response to food (and the associated cues) in subjects with a deranged eating behavior.

This Special Issue on “Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior” welcomes original research papers and up-to-date reviews (including systematic reviews and meta-analyses), ranging from preclinical research to human studies, aimed at understanding the neuronal and physiological substrates of different motivational aspects of eating behavior as well as at identifying the (neuro)biological mechanisms that might drive “food motivation” into “maladaptive eating habits”.

Dr. Maria Scherma
Prof. Paola Fadda
Dr. Fabrizio Sanna
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Eating behavior
  • Food intake
  • Food motivation
  • Neurobiology
  • Reward
  • Eating disorders
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Animal models
  • Human studies

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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Article
Activity-Based Anorexia Dynamically Dysregulates the Glutamatergic Synapse in the Nucleus Accumbens of Female Adolescent Rats
Nutrients 2020, 12(12), 3661; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123661 - 28 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1025
Abstract
Intense physical activity and dieting are core symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN). Their combination evolves into compulsivity, leading the patient into an out-of-control spiral. AN patients exhibit an altered activation of nucleus accumbens (NAc), revealing a dysfunctional mesocorticolimbic reward circuitry in AN. Since [...] Read more.
Intense physical activity and dieting are core symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN). Their combination evolves into compulsivity, leading the patient into an out-of-control spiral. AN patients exhibit an altered activation of nucleus accumbens (NAc), revealing a dysfunctional mesocorticolimbic reward circuitry in AN. Since evidence exists that a dysregulation of the glutamate system in the NAc influences reward and taking advantage of the activity-based anorexia (ABA) rat model, which closely mimics the hallmarks of AN, we investigated the involvement of the glutamatergic signaling in the NAc in this experimental model. We here demonstrate that food restriction causes hyperactive and compulsive behavior in rodents, inducing an escalation of physical activity, which results in dramatic weight loss. Analysis of the glutamate system revealed that, in the acute phase of the pathology, ABA rats increased the membrane expression of GluA1 AMPA (α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid) receptor subunits together with its scaffolding protein SAP97. Recovery of body weight reduced GluN2A/2B balance together with the expression of their specific scaffolding proteins, thus suggesting persistent maladaptive neurotransmission. Taken together, AMPA and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor subunit reorganization may play a role in the motivational mechanisms underlying AN. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Article
The Role of Lipid Composition in the Sensory Attributes and Acceptability of the Salted and Dried Mullet Roes (Bottarga): A Study in Human and Animal Models
Nutrients 2020, 12(11), 3454; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113454 - 11 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 854
Abstract
A taste component is implicated in the oro-sensory detection of dietary lipids and free fatty acids seem to be involved in fatty food recognition. Bottarga, the salted and semi-dried ovary product of mullet (Mugil spp.), is a rich-fat food. A comparative sensory [...] Read more.
A taste component is implicated in the oro-sensory detection of dietary lipids and free fatty acids seem to be involved in fatty food recognition. Bottarga, the salted and semi-dried ovary product of mullet (Mugil spp.), is a rich-fat food. A comparative sensory assessment of different commercial bottarga samples was performed in insect and human models in relation to their lipid composition. The bottarga attractant effect to Ceratitis capitata was assessed by behavioral tests. The subjective odor and taste perception of bottarga samples was investigated in human determining the rate of pleasantness, familiarity, and intensity dimensions using the 7-points Likert-type scale. Bottarga samples showed similar lipid profiles, but differences emerged in total and free fatty acid levels. Significant differences were observed in the attractant effect/acceptability of samples to medflies, negatively correlated to their total and free fatty acids. Insect female exhibited the ability to select among bottarga samples based on their visual and olfactory properties. In the human model, a potential contribution of free fatty acid amount in the pleasantness and familiarity dimensions of taste of bottarga samples was evidenced. Women exhibited a greater ability than men to select bottarga samples based on their better olfactory perception. Our results increase the knowledge about this outstanding product with nutritional and nutraceutical properties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Article
Impacts of Acute Sucralose and Glucose on Brain Activity during Food Decisions in Humans
Nutrients 2020, 12(11), 3283; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113283 - 27 Oct 2020
Viewed by 1062
Abstract
It is not known how acute sucralose and glucose alter signaling within the brain when individuals make decisions about available food. Here we examine this using Food Bid Task in which participants bid on visually depicted food items, while simultaneously undergoing functional Magnetic [...] Read more.
It is not known how acute sucralose and glucose alter signaling within the brain when individuals make decisions about available food. Here we examine this using Food Bid Task in which participants bid on visually depicted food items, while simultaneously undergoing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Twenty-eight participants completed three sessions after overnight fast, distinguished only by the consumption at the start of the session of 300 mL cherry flavored water with either 75 g glucose, 0.24 g sucralose, or no other ingredient. There was a marginally significant (p = 0.05) effect of condition on bids, with 13.0% lower bids after glucose and 16.6% lower bids after sucralose (both relative to water). Across conditions, greater activity within regions a priori linked to food cue reactivity predicted higher bids, as did greater activity within the medial orbitofrontal cortex and bilateral frontal pole. There was a significant attenuation within the a priori region of interest (ROI) after sucralose compared to water (p < 0.05). Activity after glucose did not differ significantly from either of the other conditions in the ROI, but an attenuation in signal was observed in the parietal cortex, relative to the water condition. Taken together, these data suggest attenuation of central nervous system (CNS) signaling associated with food valuation after glucose and sucralose. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Article
Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Body Weight Gain, Lipid Profiles, and Atherogenic Indices in Cafeteria-Diet-Fed Rats: Role of Browning of Inguinal White Adipose Tissue
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2185; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082185 - 23 Jul 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1629
Abstract
Time-restricted feeding (TRF) showed a potent effect in preventing obesity and improving metabolicoutcomes in several animal models of obesity. However, there is, as of yet, scarce evidence concerning its effectiveness against obesogenic challenges that more accurately mimic human Western diets, such as the [...] Read more.
Time-restricted feeding (TRF) showed a potent effect in preventing obesity and improving metabolicoutcomes in several animal models of obesity. However, there is, as of yet, scarce evidence concerning its effectiveness against obesogenic challenges that more accurately mimic human Western diets, such as the cafeteria diet. Moreover, the mechanism for its efficacy is poorly understood. White adipose browning has been linked to body weight loss. Herein, we tested whether TRF has the potential to induce browning of inguinal white adipose tissue (iWAT) and to attenuate obesity and associated dyslipidemia in a cafeteria-diet-induced obesity model. Male Wistar rats were fed normal laboratory chow (NC) or cafeteria diet (CAF) for 16 weeks and were subdivided into two groups that were subjected to either ad libitum (ad lib, A) or TRF (R) for 8 h per day. Rats under the TRF regimen had a lower body weight gain and adiposity than the diet-matchedad lib rats, despite equivalent levels of food intake and locomotor activity. In addition, TRF improved the deranged lipid profile (total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), high-density lipoprotein (HDL-c), low-density lipoprotein (LDL-c)) and atherogenic indices (atherogenic index of plasma (AIP), atherogenic coefficient (AC), coronary risk index (CRI) in CAF-fed rats. Remarkably, TRF resulted in decreased size of adipocytes and induced emergence of multilocular brown-like adipocytes in iWAT of NC- and CAF-fed rats. Protein expression of browning markers, such as uncoupling protein-1 (UCP1) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC1α), were also up-regulated in the iWAToftime-restricted NC- or CAF-fed rats. These findings suggest that a TRF regimen is an effective strategy to improve CAF diet-induced obesity, probably via a mechanismthe involving WAT browning process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Article
Consummatory, Feeding Microstructural, and Metabolic Effects Induced by Limiting Access to Either a High-Sucrose or a High-Fat Diet
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1610; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061610 - 30 May 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1521
Abstract
Background: Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes consisting of rapid consumption of excessive amounts of highly palatable, energy-dense food within discrete periods of time. The aim of this study was to test the consummatory, food microstructural, and metabolic [...] Read more.
Background: Binge eating disorder (BED) is characterized by recurrent binge eating episodes consisting of rapid consumption of excessive amounts of highly palatable, energy-dense food within discrete periods of time. The aim of this study was to test the consummatory, food microstructural, and metabolic effects of a one hour limited access to either a high-sucrose diet (HSD) or a high-fat diet (HFD) in an operant rat model of binge-like eating. Methods: Female rats were subject to a binge-like eating procedure in which a HSD, a HFD, or a standard chow diet were provided in a fixed ratio 1 (FR1) operant schedule of reinforcement. Results: Limiting access to either a HSD or a HFD promoted binge-like eating as compared to the control chow diet. However, binge-like eating of HSD, but not HFD, was based on a true increase in the amount of food consumed, an increased eating rate, and a decrease in the intake of the home-cage standard chow, altogether suggesting an increase in palatability. Moreover, while HSD rats consumed overall less energy than HFD rats, the former were more energy efficient and gained more body weight than the latter. Conclusions: These results provide information on how the quality of food can deeply influence the behavioral and metabolic outcomes of binge-like eating. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Communication
The Alpha-1 Adrenergic Receptor Antagonist Prazosin Reduces Binge-Like Eating in Rats
Nutrients 2020, 12(6), 1569; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061569 - 28 May 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1454
Abstract
Background: Binge-eating disorder is a pervasive addiction-like disorder that is defined by excessive and uncontrollable consumption of food within brief periods of time. The aim of the current study was to examine the role of the brain noradrenergic system in binge-like eating through [...] Read more.
Background: Binge-eating disorder is a pervasive addiction-like disorder that is defined by excessive and uncontrollable consumption of food within brief periods of time. The aim of the current study was to examine the role of the brain noradrenergic system in binge-like eating through the use of the alpha-1 adrenergic receptor antagonist prazosin. Methods: For this purpose, we employed a limited access model whereby male Wistar rats were allowed to nosepoke for either chow (Chow rats) or a sugary, highly palatable food (Palatable rats) for 1 h/day. The effects of prazosin (0, 0.5, 1 and 2 mg/kg, i.p.) were tested in a fixed ratio 1 (FR1) and progressive ratio (PR) schedule of reinforcement. Results: The results show that prazosin preferentially reduced the responses for palatable food in a FR1 reinforcement schedule; when tested in a PR schedule of reinforcement, prazosin increased breakpoint in both Chow and Palatable rats, but more potently and more efficaciously in the latter. Our results suggest that prazosin treatment preferentially increased the motivational properties of the palatable diet. Conclusions: The current findings provide the characterization of the effects of prazosin on binge-like eating and offer support to the existing literature showing the important role of the noradrenergic system in addiction-like behavior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Article
Obesity and Age-Related Changes in the Brain of the Zucker Lepr fa/fa Rats
Nutrients 2020, 12(5), 1356; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051356 - 09 May 2020
Cited by 15 | Viewed by 1458
Abstract
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is an association between obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance. A relationship between MetS and vascular dementia was hypothesized. The purpose of this work is to investigate brain microanatomy alterations in obese Zucker rats (OZRs), as a model of [...] Read more.
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is an association between obesity, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance. A relationship between MetS and vascular dementia was hypothesized. The purpose of this work is to investigate brain microanatomy alterations in obese Zucker rats (OZRs), as a model of MetS, compared to their counterparts lean Zucker rats (LZRs). 12-, 16-, and 20-weeks-old male OZRs and LZRs were studied. General physiological parameters and blood values were measured. Immunochemical and immunohistochemical techniques were applied to analyze the brain alterations. The morphology of nerve cells and axons, astrocytes and microglia were investigated. The blood–brain barrier (BBB) changes occurring in OZRs were assessed as well using aquaporin-4 (AQP4) and glucose transporter protein-1 (GLUT1) as markers. Body weight gain, hypertension, hyperglycemia, and hyperlipidemia were found in OZRs compared to LZRs. In the frontal cortex and hippocampus, a decrease of neurons was noticeable in the older obese rats in comparison to their age-matched lean counterparts. In OZRs, a reduction of neurofilament immunoreaction and gliosis was observed. The BBB of older OZRs revealed an increased expression of AQP4 likely related to the development of edema. A down-regulation of GLUT1 was found in OZRs of 12 weeks of age, whereas it increased in older OZRs. The behavioral analysis revealed cognitive alterations in 20-week-old OZRs. Based on these results, the OZRs may be useful for understanding the mechanisms through which obesity and related metabolic alterations induce neurodegeneration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Review

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Review
The Effect of a Combined Gluten- and Casein-Free Diet on Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 470; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020470 - 30 Jan 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3552
Abstract
There has been a growing interest in the gastrointestinal system and its significance for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including the significance of adopting a gluten-free and casein-free (GFCF) diet. The objective was to investigate beneficial and safety of a GFCF diet among children [...] Read more.
There has been a growing interest in the gastrointestinal system and its significance for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including the significance of adopting a gluten-free and casein-free (GFCF) diet. The objective was to investigate beneficial and safety of a GFCF diet among children with a diagnosis of ASD. We performed a systematic literature search in Medline, Embase, Cinahl, and the Cochrane Library up to January 2020 for existing systematic reviews and individual randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Studies were included if they investigated a GFCF diet compared to a regular diet in children aged 3 to 17 years diagnosed with ASD, with or without comorbidities. The quality of the identified existing reviews was assessed using A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR). The risk of bias in RCTs was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool, and overall quality of evidence was evaluated using Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). We identified six relevant RCTs, which included 143 participants. The results from a random effect model showed no effect of a GFCF diet on clinician-reported autism core symptoms (standardized mean difference (SMD) −0.31 (95% Cl. −0.89, 0.27)), parent-reported functional level (mean difference (MD) 0.61 (95% Cl −5.92, 7.14)) or behavioral difficulties (MD 0.80 (95% Cl −6.56, 10.16)). On the contrary, a GFCF diet might trigger gastrointestinal adverse effects (relative risk (RR) 2.33 (95% Cl 0.69, 7.90)). The quality of evidence ranged from low to very low due to serious risk of bias, serious risk of inconsistency, and serious risk of imprecision. Clinical implications of the present findings may be careful consideration of introducing a GFCF diet to children with ASD. However, the limitations of the current literature hinder the possibility of drawing any solid conclusion, and more high-quality RCTs are needed. The protocol is registered at the Danish Health Authority website. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Review
Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the Integration of Neural and Endocrine Responses to Stress
Nutrients 2020, 12(11), 3304; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113304 - 28 Oct 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2078
Abstract
Glucagon like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) within the brain is produced by a population of preproglucagon neurons located in the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract. These neurons project to the hypothalamus and another forebrain, hindbrain, and mesolimbic brain areas control the autonomic function, feeding, [...] Read more.
Glucagon like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) within the brain is produced by a population of preproglucagon neurons located in the caudal nucleus of the solitary tract. These neurons project to the hypothalamus and another forebrain, hindbrain, and mesolimbic brain areas control the autonomic function, feeding, and the motivation to feed or regulate the stress response and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) controls both food intake and feeding behavior (hunger-driven feeding, the hedonic value of food, and food motivation). The activation of GLP-1 receptors involves second messenger pathways and ionic events in the autonomic nervous system, which are very relevant to explain the essential central actions of GLP-1 as neuromodulator coordinating food intake in response to a physiological and stress-related stimulus to maintain homeostasis. Alterations in GLP-1 signaling associated with obesity or chronic stress induce the dysregulation of eating behavior. This review summarized the experimental shreds of evidence from studies using GLP-1R agonists to describe the neural and endocrine integration of stress responses and feeding behavior. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Review
How Does Our Brain Process Sugars and Non-Nutritive Sweeteners Differently: A Systematic Review on Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies
Nutrients 2020, 12(10), 3010; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103010 - 30 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1861
Abstract
This systematic review aimed to reveal the differential brain processing of sugars and sweeteners in humans. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies published up to 2019 were retrieved from two databases and were included into the review if they evaluated the effects of both [...] Read more.
This systematic review aimed to reveal the differential brain processing of sugars and sweeteners in humans. Functional magnetic resonance imaging studies published up to 2019 were retrieved from two databases and were included into the review if they evaluated the effects of both sugars and sweeteners on the subjects’ brain responses, during tasting and right after ingestion. Twenty studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The number of participants per study ranged from 5 to 42, with a total number of study participants at 396. Seven studies recruited both males and females, 7 were all-female and 6 were all-male. There was no consistent pattern showing that sugar or sweeteners elicited larger brain responses. Commonly involved brain regions were insula/operculum, cingulate and striatum, brainstem, hypothalamus and the ventral tegmental area. Future studies, therefore, should recruit a larger sample size, adopt a standardized fasting duration (preferably 12 h overnight, which is the most common practice and brain responses are larger in the state of hunger), and reported results with familywise-error rate (FWE)-corrected statistics. Every study should report the differential brain activation between sugar and non-nutritive sweetener conditions regardless of the complexity of their experiment design. These measures would enable a meta-analysis, pooling data across studies in a meaningful manner. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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Review
Underlying Susceptibility to Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse: Genetic and Pharmacological Aspects of Dopamine D4 Receptors
Nutrients 2020, 12(8), 2288; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082288 - 30 Jul 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2305
Abstract
The dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) has a predominant expression in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), brain area strictly involved in the modulation of reward processes related to both food and drug consumption. Additionally, the human DRD4 gene is characterized by a variable number of [...] Read more.
The dopamine D4 receptor (DRD4) has a predominant expression in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), brain area strictly involved in the modulation of reward processes related to both food and drug consumption. Additionally, the human DRD4 gene is characterized by a variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) in the exon 3 and, among the polymorphic variants, the 7-repeat (7R) allele appears as a contributing factor in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying drug abuse, aberrant eating behaviors and related comorbidities. The 7R variant encodes for a receptor with a blunted intracellular response to dopamine, and carriers of this polymorphism might be more tempted to enhance dopamine levels in the brain, through the overconsumption of drugs of abuse or palatable food, considering their reinforcing properties. Moreover, the presence of this polymorphism seems to increase the susceptibility of individuals to engage maladaptive eating patterns in response to negative environmental stimuli. This review is focused on the role of DRD4 and DRD4 genetic polymorphism in these neuropsychiatric disorders in both clinical and preclinical studies. However, further research is needed to better clarify the complex DRD4 role, by using validated preclinical models and novel compounds more selective for DRD4. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain and Food Motivation, Choice, and Eating Behavior)
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