High-Fat Diet and Ethanol effects research published

The latest issue of the Journal of Young Investigators includes an article reporting on a study of the impact of high-fat diet and ethanol on cognition and behavior in female mice.  The research was conducted during spring 2012 as part of Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience (Psyc 359) by Chris Daniell ’14 and Shelby Bartlett ’12, under the supervision of Assistant Professor Jessica Siegel.  It was supported by Psychology Department operating funds and a grant from the Dean of the College.

Daniell, C., Bartlett, S., & Siegel, J.A. (2013, July). Effects of High-Fat Diet and Ethanol on Cognition and Behavior in Mice. Journal of Young Investigators, 25 (7), 96-100.

The college lifestyle is associated with both a high-fat diet and alcohol consumption. While the isolated effects of diet and alcohol consumption on cognition and behavior are well studied, there is little known about the effect of both together. In this study, we created a mouse model of the college lifestyle in order to better understand the potential combined effects of a high-fat diet and alcohol consumption on cognition and behavior.

Adult C57BL/6J female mice were exposed to either regular food or high-fat food and daily injections of either saline or ethanol. The Porsolt forced swim test (FST), open field, and novel object recognition test measured depression-like behavior, anxiety-like behavior and locomotion, and memory, respectively.

In the Porsolt forced swim test, ethanol-exposed mice trended towards spending more time immobile indicating increased depressive-like behavior. Ethanol exposure also decreased distance moved by the mice in the center of the open field arena, suggesting increased anxiety-like behavior. The high-fat diet had no effect in the FST, but, it did increase distance moved in the open field. There were no effects of diet or ethanol exposure on memory in the novel object recognition test.

In conclusion, it appears that ethanol can increase the risk for depression-like behavior and anxiety-like behavior in female mice, but contrary to our original hypothesis, there were no effects or interactions of high-fat diet on depressive behavior or cognition in the current study. The findings regarding ethanol’s effects correspond to the current high rates of student depression and anxiety seen on college campuses.

The mission of the 15-year-old Journal of Young Investigators is to showcase undergraduate research in science … non-technical writing for the public and technical writing (both journal articles and the peer review process).  It provides learning opportunities to undergraduates as authors and as editors.