Prenatal and Postnatal Determinants of Development pp 169-188

Part of the Neuromethods book series (NM, volume 109) | Cite as

Prenatal Programming of the Mesolimbic Reward Pathway and Food Preferences


The drive to consume palatable foods, high in fat and sugar, goes beyond the need to satisfy hunger and has a strong hedonic component. Studies in rodent models have demonstrated that the preference for these foods can be programmed before birth, and that feeding dams on cafeteria diets during pregnancy and lactation is associated with an increased preference for palatable foods in the offspring after weaning. More recently, attention has turned towards elucidating the biological mechanisms which drive these effects, with studies to date focussing on the impact of maternal cafeteria diets on the development of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring. This chapter discusses the methods we have used to study the impact of maternal “junk food” diets during pregnancy and lactation on food preferences and gene expression of key components of the opioid and dopamine signalling systems in two key regions of the mesolimbic reward pathway in the offspring.

Key words

Fetal programming Reward Cafeteria diet Dopamine Opioids Neonate Ontogeny Animal model 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FOODplus Research Centre, School of Agriculture Food and WineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Women’s and Children’s Health Research CentreWomen’s and Children’s HospitalNorth AdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Sansom Institute for Health ResearchUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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