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Harb, Mazen R.; Sousa, Nuno; Zihl, Joseph; Almeida, Osborne F. X. (2014): Reward components of feeding behavior are preserved during mouse aging. In: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Vol. 6, 242
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Abstract

Eating behavior depends on associations between the sensory and energetic properties of foods. Healthful balance of these factors is a challenge for industrialized societies that have an abundance of food, food choices and food-related cues. Here, we were interested in whether appetitive conditioning changes as a function of age. Operant and pavlovian conditioning experiments (rewarding stimulus was a palatable food) in male mice (aged 3, 6, and 15 months) showed that implicit (non-declarative) memory remains intact during aging. Two other essential components of eating behavior, motivation and hedonic preference for rewarding foods, were also found not to be altered in aging mice. Specifically, hedonic responding by satiated mice to isocaloric foods of differing sensory properties (sucrose, milk) was similar in all age groups; importantly, however, this paradigm disclosed that older animals adjust their energy intake according to energetic need. Based on the assumption that the mechanisms that control feeding are conserved across species, it would appear that overeating and obesity in humans reflects a mismatch between ancient physiological mechanisms and today's cue-laden environment. The implication of the present results showing that aging does not impair the ability to learn stimulus-food associations is that the risk of overeating in response to food cues is maintained through to old age.