In: Physiology & Behavior
Abstract: Binge eating is characterized by the consumption of a large amount of palatable food in a short period of time and is a core feature of many eating disorders. Patients with eating disorders are also known to display impairments in inhibitory control, cognition and decision-making, which may promote and maintain binge eating symptomology. In the current study, we examined whether rats that were subsequently characterized as displaying a higher propensity to binge eat would show pre-existing deficits in reinforcer devaluation-a paradigm used to examine decision-making following reductions in the value of a food reinforcer. Female rats were first trained to respond on two levers for the delivery of two food reinforcers (sucrose and maltodextrin solutions). At the test stage, rats were provided 1 h access to one of the two reinforcers to allow for devaluation via sensory specific satiety, immediately followed by an extinction test with both levers. Normal rats typically show reductions in responding on the lever associated with the devalued reinforcer (i.e., intact goal-directed responding). Subsequently, we used intermittent access to palatable food to identify high (BE prone [BEP]; n = 14), intermediate (BE neutral [BEN]; n = 48), and low (BE resistant [BER]; n = 13) phenotypes of binge eating. Prior reinforcer devaluation performance showed BEN and BER rats suppressed responding on the lever associated with the devalued reinforcer while BEP rats did not. This insensitivity to instrumental reinforcer devaluation in BEP rats did not reflect impaired sensory-specific satiety as during a food choice test, BEP rats showed a more robust alteration in food preferences following devaluation. Additionally, across all rats sensory specific satiety was correlated with subsequent intake of palatable food. Collectively, these findings suggest dissociable effects of devaluation procedures on instrumental actions and consummatory behaviors in BEP rats, and may indicate that pre-existing differences in goal-directed behavior and sensory-specific satiety contribute to the propensity to overeat palatable food.