Food seeking in a risky environment: A method for evaluating risk and reward value in food seeking and consumption in mice

Sarah H. Lockie, Clare V. McAuley, Sasha Rawlinson, Natalie Guiney, Zane B. Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Most studies that measure food intake in mice do so in the home cage environment. This necessarily means that mice do not engage in food seeking before consumption, a behavior that is ubiquitous in free-living animals. We modified and validated several commonly used anxiety tests to include a palatable food reward within the anxiogenic zone. This allowed us to assess risk-taking behavior in food seeking in mice in response to different metabolic stimuli. We modified the open field test and the light/dark box by placing palatable peanut butter chips within a designated food zone inside the anxiogenic zone of each apparatus. We then assessed parameters of the interaction with the food reward. Fasted mice or mice treated with ghrelin showed increased consumption and increased time spent in the food zone immediately around the food reward compared to ad libitum fed mice or mice treated with saline. However, fasted mice treated with IP glucose before exposure to the behavioral arena showed reduced time in the food zone compared to fasted controls, indicating that acute metabolic signals can modify the assessment of safety in food seeking in a risky environment. The tests described in this study will be useful in assessing risk processing and incentive salience of food reward, which are intrinsic components of food acquisition outside of the laboratory environment, in a range of genetic and pharmacological models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Number of pages1
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2017


  • Behavior
  • Food seeking
  • Light dark box test
  • Open field test
  • Reward
  • Risk

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