Neuropharmacology of compulsive eating

Catherine F. Moore, Julia I. Panciera, Valentina Sabino, Pietro Cottone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Compulsive eating behaviour is a transdiagnostic construct observed in certain forms of obesity and eating disorders, as well as in the proposed construct of ‘food addiction’. Compulsive eating can be conceptualized as comprising three elements: (i) habitual overeating, (ii) overeating to relieve a negative emotional state, and (iii) overeating despite adverse consequences. Neurobiological processes that include maladaptive habit formation, the emergence of a negative affect, and dysfunctions in inhibitory control are thought to drive the development and persistence of compulsive eating behaviour. These complex psychobehavioural processes are under the control of various neuropharmacological systems. Here, we describe the current evidence implicating these systems in compulsive eating behaviour, and contextualize them within the three elements. A better understanding of the neuropharmacological substrates of compulsive eating behaviour has the potential to significantly advance the pharmacotherapy for feeding-related pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170024
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1742
StatePublished - Mar 19 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Addiction
  • Compulsive
  • Eating
  • Habit
  • Inhibitory control
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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