Impulsivity, defined as impaired decision making, is associated with many psychiatric and behavioral disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as well as eating disorders. Recent data indicate that there is a strong positive correlation between food reward behavior and impulsivity, but the mechanisms behind this relationship remain unknown. Here we hypothesize that ghrelin, an orexigenic hormone produced by the stomach and known to increase food reward behavior, also increases impulsivity. In order to assess the impact of ghrelin on impulsivity, rats were trained in three complementary tests of impulsive behavior and choice: differential reinforcement of low rate (DRL), go/no-go, and delay discounting. Ghrelin injection into the lateral ventricle increased impulsive behavior, as indicated by reduced efficiency of performance in the DRL test, and increased lever pressing during the no-go periods of the go/no-go test. Central ghrelin stimulation also increased impulsive choice, as evidenced by the reduced choice for large rewards when delivered with a delay in the delay discounting test. In order to determine whether signaling at the central ghrelin receptors is necessary for maintenance of normal levels of impulsive behavior, DRL performance was assessed following ghrelin receptor blockade with central infusion of a ghrelin receptor antagonist. Central ghrelin receptor blockade reduced impulsive behavior, as reflected by increased efficiency of performance in the DRL task. To further investigate the neurobiological substrate underlying the impulsivity effect of ghrelin, we microinjected ghrelin into the ventral tegmental area, an area harboring dopaminergic cell bodies. Ghrelin receptor stimulation within the VTA was sufficient to increase impulsive behavior. We further evaluated the impact of ghrelin on dopamine-related gene expression and dopamine turnover in brain areas key in impulsive behavior control. This study provides the first demonstration that the stomach-produced hormone ghrelin increases impulsivity and also indicates that ghrelin can change two major components of impulsivity-motor and choice impulsivity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health