Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Peter Vollbrecht, Biology

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Obesity has become not only a nationwide problem, but a cause for worldwide concern as the prevalence of processed junk-food is currently on the rise. Along with numerous physical ailments induced by obesity, emerging evidence suggests that consumption of a high-fat diet has negative neurological implications. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), known to play an important role in mediating “executive” functions such as inhibitory control, working memory, and decision-making is one region that appears to be affected by consumption of a junk food diet. In this study, we explored the effects of a junk-food diet and a high fat diet on PFC function. Rats were fed either a junk-food diet (19.6% fat) intended to mimic a typical Western diet, a high fat diet (60% fat), or a standard chow diet. Behavioral testing were then conducted following a 4 week exposure to the diets and included the Egocentric Morris Water Maze, Spontaneous Alternation, Novel Object Recognition and Attentional Set Shift. These behavioral tests were performed in order to identify any differences in working memory or attention between groups.