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Neuroscience. 2003;122(1):17-20.

A diet promoting sugar dependency causes behavioral cross-sensitization to a low dose of amphetamine.

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Princeton University, Department of Psychology, Green Hall, Washington Road, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.


Previous research in this laboratory has shown that a diet of intermittent excessive sugar consumption produces a state with neurochemical and behavioral similarities to drug dependency. The present study examined whether female rats on various regimens of sugar access would show behavioral cross-sensitization to a low dose of amphetamine. After a 30-min baseline measure of locomotor activity (day 0), animals were maintained on a cyclic diet of 12-h deprivation followed by 12-h access to 10% sucrose solution and chow pellets (12 h access starting 4 h after onset of the dark period) for 21 days. Locomotor activity was measured again for 30 min at the beginning of days 1 and 21 of sugar access. Beginning on day 22, all rats were maintained on ad libitum chow. Nine days later locomotor activity was measured in response to a single low dose of amphetamine (0.5 mg/kg). The animals that had experienced cyclic sucrose and chow were hyperactive in response to amphetamine compared with four control groups (ad libitum 10% sucrose and chow followed by amphetamine injection, cyclic chow followed by amphetamine injection, ad libitum chow with amphetamine, or cyclic 10% sucrose and chow with a saline injection). These results suggest that a diet comprised of alternating deprivation and access to a sugar solution and chow produces bingeing on sugar that leads to a long lasting state of increased sensitivity to amphetamine, possibly due to a lasting alteration in the dopamine system.

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