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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Exploring Adaptations to Famine: Rats Selectively Bred for Differential Intake of Saccharin Differ on Deprivation-Induced Hyperactivity and Emotionality

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In many mammals, including humans and rats, acute starvation increases locomotor activity. This seemingly paradoxical and potentially lethal behavior pattern may reflect an evolved, multisystem response to sudden threats to metabolic homeostasis. The present study provides a novel test of this idea. Occidental High- (HiS) and Low- (LoS) Saccharin-Consuming rats differ on the taste phenotype and also on some affective measures, on which LoS rats score higher. Wheel running was measured in HiS and LoS rats with food available freely versus for 1 hr daily. As predicted, restricted feeding stimulated significantly more running among LoS rats. Two independent tests of emotionality (acoustic startle, stress-induced analgesia) also distinguished the lines. The confluence of taste, emotion, and reactivity to starvation conditions in species as distantly related as rats and humans points to integrated biobehavioral systems that warrant further exploration.

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