Using the activity-based anorexia rodent model to study the neurobiological basis of anorexia nervosa

Tara Gunkali Chowdhury, Yi Wen Chen, Chiye Aoki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a psychiatric illness characterized by excessively restricted caloric intake and abnormally high levels of physical activity. A challenging illness to treat, due to the lack of understanding of the underlying neurobiology, AN has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric illnesses. To address this need, neuroscientists are using an animal model to study how neural circuits may contribute toward vulnerability to AN and may be affected by AN. Activity-based anorexia (ABA) is a bio-behavioral phenomenon described in rodents that models the key symptoms of anorexia nervosa. When rodents with free access to voluntary exercise on a running wheel experience food restriction, they become hyperactive – running more than animals with free access to food. Here, we describe the procedures by which ABA is induced in adolescent female C57BL/6 mice. On postnatal day 36 (P36), the animal is housed with access to voluntary exercise on a running wheel. After 4 days of acclimation to the running wheel, on P40, all food is removed from the cage. For the next 3 days, food is returned to the cage (allowing animals free food access) for 2 hr daily. After the fourth day of food restriction, free access to food is returned and the running wheel is removed from the cage to allow the animals to recover. Continuous multi-day analysis of running wheel activity shows that mice become hyperactive within 24 hr following the onset of food restriction. The mice run even during the limited time during which they have access to food. Additionally, the circadian pattern of wheel running becomes disrupted by the experience of food restriction. We have been able to correlate neurobiological changes with various aspects of the animals’ wheel running behavior to implicate particular brain regions and neurochemical changes with resilience and vulnerability to food-restriction induced hyperactivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere52927
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number104
StatePublished - Oct 22 2015


  • Adolescence
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Anxiety
  • Behavior
  • Exercise
  • Food restriction
  • Issue 104
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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