Alterations in dopamine (DA) signaling and reductions in functional connectivity (FC; a measure of temporal correlations of activity between different brain regions) within dopaminergic reward pathways are implicated in the etiology of psychopathology and have been associated with increased concentrations of inflammatory markers, including C-reactive protein. Peripheral and central inflammatory cytokines that have been shown to disrupt DA signaling and corticostriatal FC are associated with C-reactive protein, an acute phase reactant that is used translationally as a marker of systemic inflammation. One factor that can significantly increase systemic inflammation to produce neuroadaptations in reward pathways is a diet that results in fat mass accumulation (e.g. obesogenic diet). The current study in female rhesus monkeys maintained in a standard laboratory chow (n = 18) or on obesogenic diet (n = 16) for 12-months tested the hypothesis that an obesogenic diet would alter central DA and homovanillic acid (HVA) concentrations, and be associated with increased CRP concentrations and decreased FC between corticostriatal regions at 12-months following dietary intervention. We specifically assessed FC between the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and two sub-regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) previously associated with CRP concentrations, the ventromedial PFC (vmPFC) and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), which are also involved in emotional and motivational salience assessment, and in goal-directed behavior, impulse control and the salience/value of food, respectively. Results showed that CSF DA concentrations were decreased (p = 0.002), HVA:DA ratios were increased (p = 0.016), and body mass index was increased (p = 0.047) over the 12-months of consuming an obesogenic diet. At 12-months, females maintained in the obesogenic diet exhibited higher CRP concentrations than females consuming chow-only (p = 0.008). Linear regression analyses revealed significant CRP by dietary condition interactions on DA concentrations (β = −5.10; p = 0.017) and HVA:DA ratios (β = 5.14; p = 0.029). Higher CRP concentrations were associated with lower CSF DA concentrations (r = −0.69; p = 0.004) and greater HVA:DA ratios only in females maintained in the obesogenic dietary condition (r = 0.58; p = 0.024). Resting-state magnetic resonance neuroimaging (rs-fMRI) in a subset of females from each diet condition (n = 8) at 12-months showed that higher CRP concentrations were associated decreased FC between the NAcc and subregions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC; p's < 0.05). Decreased FC between the NAcc and PFC subregions were also associated with lower concentrations of DA and greater HVA:DA ratios (p's < 0.05). Overall, these data suggest that increased inflammatory signaling driving heightened CRP levels may mediate the adverse consequences of obesogenic diets on DA neurochemistry and corticostriatal connectivity.
- Reward pathways
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience