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AIMS: The high sugar and lipid content of the Western diet (WD) is associated with metabolic dysfunction, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and it is an established risk factor for neuropsychiatric disorders. Our previous studies reported negative effects of the WD on rodent emotionality, impulsivity, and sociability in adulthood. Here, we investigated the effect of the WD on motor coordination, novelty recognition, and affective behavior in mice as well as molecular and cellular endpoints in brain and peripheral tissues. MAIN METHODS: Female C57BL/6 J mice were fed the WD for three weeks and were investigated for glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, liver steatosis, and changes in motor coordination, object recognition, and despair behavior in the swim test. Lipids and liver injury markers, including aspartate-transaminase, alanine-transaminase and urea were measured in blood. Serotonin transporter (SERT) expression, the density of Iba1-positive cells and concentration of malondialdehyde were measured in brain. KEY FINDINGS: WD-fed mice exhibited impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, a loss of motor coordination, deficits in novel object exploration and recognition, increased helplessness, dyslipidemia, as well as signs of a non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)-like syndrome: liver steatosis and increased liver injury markers. Importantly, these changes were accompanied by decreased SERT expression, elevated numbers of microglia cells and malondialdehyde levels in, and restricted to, the prefrontal cortex. SIGNIFICANCE: The WD induces a spectrum of behaviors that are more reminiscent of ADHD and ASD than previously recognized and suggests that, in addition to the impairment of impulsivity and sociability, the consumption of a WD might be expected to exacerbate motor dysfunction that is also known to be associated with adult ADHD and ASD.

Original publication




Journal article


Life Sci

Publication Date





Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Cognitive deficits, Mice, Microglia, Motor coordination, Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), Oxidative stress, Prefrontal cortex, Western diet