Modeling and testing compulsive eating behavior in animals
Cheng, Jonathan Emerson
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The study of compulsive eating has been swiftly gaining attention in both preclinical and clinical research. Compulsive eating behaviors characterize obesity and several eating disorders and can be conceptualized as being composed of three main elements: 1. habitual overeating, 2. overeating to alleviate a negative emotional state, and 3. overeating despite negative consequences. At a preclinical level, developing appropriate and clinically-relevant animal models and tests has been a barrier to investigating the neurobiological substrates of compulsive eating with the purpose of refining pharmacological interventions for forms of obesity and eating disorders. Throughout this review, we will describe the strategies used to develop animal models, first detailing experimental manipulations that are most commonly used to facilitate development of compulsive eating behavior and then we will focus on the tests used to measure compulsive eating as defined by the three aforementioned elements. Retuning the methodological approach towards compulsive eating behavior is essential to understand the complex mechanisms underlying the maladaptive food intake in forms of obesity and eating disorders.