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Author Notes:

Send correspondence to:, Vasiliki Michopoulos, PhD, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta GA 30322, vmichop@emory.edu, 404-727-9058, 404-727-8088 (fax)

The current study would not have been possible without the expert technical assistance of Jennifer Whitley, Angela Tripp, Brandon Hughes, Jessica Johnson, Patrick Ulam, Rebecca Herman, Robert Johnston and Gregory Henry.

These studies would not have been possible without the dedication of the animal husbandry and veterinary staff at the YNPRC.

The YNPRC is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by NIH grants DK096983 and ORIP/OD P51OD011132.

Further support was provided by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience through the STC Program of the National Science Foundation IBN-9876754.


  • Social Sciences
  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Psychology, Biological
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Dopamine D2 receptors
  • Diet choice
  • Monkeys
  • Emotional eating

Social change and access to a palatable diet produces differences in reward neurochemistry and appetite in female monkeys


Journal Title:

Physiology and Behavior


Volume 162


, Pages 102-111

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Understanding factors that contribute to the etiology of obesity is critical for minimizing the effects of obesity-related adverse physical health outcomes. Emotional eating or the inability to control intake of calorically dense diets (CDD) under conditions of psychosocial stress exposure is a potential risk factor for the development of obesity in people. Decreases in dopamine 2 receptors (D2R) availability have been documented in substance abuse and obesity in humans, as well as animal mode ls of chronic stressor exposure. Social subordination in macaques is a well-established animal model of a chronic psychogenic stressor that results in stress axis dysregulation, attenuated striatal D2R levels, and stress-induced hyperphagia in complex dietary environment. However, it remains unclear how these phenotypes emerge as the stressor becomes chronic during the formation of new social groups. Thus, the goal of the current study was to assess how the imposition of social subordination over a four-month period would affect food intake, socioemotional behavior, and D2R binding potential (D2R-BP) in female rhesus monkeys maintained on a typical laboratory chow diet (LCD) compared with those having a choice between a LCD and a CDD. Results showed that access to a CDD leads to increased total caloric intake and preference for a CDD over a LCD. For the dietary choice condition, females directing less aggression towards group mates during the four-month period, a characteristic of lower social status, consumed progressively more calories over the four-month period than more aggressive females. This relation between agonistic behavior and appetite was not observed for females in LCD-only condition. Finally, decreased D2R-BP in the orbitofrontal cortex was predictive of increased overall caloric intake in all females regardless of dietary environment, suggesting that reduced availability of D2R within the prefrontal cortex is associated with unrestrained eating. Studies are continuing to determine how newly imposed dominance ranks continue to affect reward neurochemistry and appetite over time, and how this is influenced by the dietary environment.

Copyright information:

© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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