Evidence shows a reciprocal relationship exists between the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) and the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VMN) in food intake regulation. Since a direct correlation between meal size and LHA-dopamine in Fischer rats was previously reported, we tested the hypothesis that an inverse association may exist between meal size and VMN-dopamine response. This was studied in awake 24-h food-deprived rats who were then allowed to eat freely for 20 min while the VMN-dopamine response was measured by microdialysis every 20 min for 2 h. In a second experiment, only one-half the amount freely eaten was provided during microdialysis. The following were observed. 1) Dopamine concentrations in VMN decreased during eating. 2) The degree and duration of decrease after the meal corresponded to the size of the meal. 3) When the decreased postmeal VMN-dopamine level had returned to baseline and food was available, rats ate once more. The findings show that, in normal rats, eating was associated with decreased dopamine levels in the VMN and was followed by a lag time during which no additional eating occurred. VMN dopamine levels thereby contribute to determining the duration of the intermeal interval and hence, by inference, the meal number.
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