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Appetite. 2012 Apr;58(2):484-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.12.006. Epub 2011 Dec 16.

Contextual control of appetite. Renewal of inhibited food-seeking behavior in sated rats after extinction.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, 2 Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT 05405-0134, USA.


Obesity and overeating have become fundamental problems in modern society. This article studies the inhibition of food-seeking behavior, and how contextual cues can control it. Rats that had free food in the home cage nevertheless learned to lever press for sucrose or high-fat pellets in a distinctive context (a Skinner box). Lever pressing was then inhibited by extinction, in which lever presses no longer produced food. After extinction, inhibited responding was "renewed" when the rats were switched to a different context: in the new context, the rats lever-pressed again, and worked more for food when food was made available. These effects were observed when conditioning, extinction and testing occurred in contexts A, B, and A (respectively) or in A, A, and B. Thus, mere removal from the context in which food-seeking was inhibited initiated a return to food-seeking. The contextual control of extinction may help explain why food seeking and consumption seem so persistent.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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