We previously demonstrated that degus (Octodon degus), which are a species of small caviomorph rodents, could be trained to use a T-shaped rake as a hand tool to expand accessible spaces. To elucidate the neurobiological underpinnings of this higher brain function, we compared this tool use learning task with a simple spatial (radial maze) memory task and investigated the changes that were induced in the hippocampal neural circuits known to subserve spatial perception and learning. With the exposure to an enriched environment in home cage, adult neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus was augmented by tool use learning, but not radial maze learning, when compared to control conditions. Furthermore, the proportion of new synapses formed in the CA3 region of the hippocampus, the target area for projections of mossy fiber axons emanating from newborn neurons, was specifically increased by tool use learning. Thus, active tool use behavior by rodents, learned through multiple training sessions, requires the hippocampus to generate more novel neurons and synapses than spatial information processing in radial maze learning.
Persistent neurobehavioral deficits and brain changes need validation for brain restoration. Two hours middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO) or sham surgery was performed in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Neurobehavioral and cognitive deficits were measured over 10 weeks included: (1) sensory, motor, beam balance, reflex/abnormal responses, hindlimb placement, forepaw foot fault and cylinder placement tests, and (2) complex active place avoidance learning (APA) and simple passive avoidance retention (PA). Electroretinogram (ERG), hemispheric loss (infarction), hippocampus CA1 neuronal loss and myelin (Luxol Fast Blue) staining in several fiber tracts were also measured. In comparison to Sham surgery, tMCAO surgery produced significant deficits in all behavioral tests except reflex/abnormal responses. Acute, short lived deficits following tMCAO were observed for forelimb foot fault and forelimb cylinder placement. Persistent, sustained deficits for the whole 10 weeks were exhibited for motor (p<0.001), sensory (p<0.001), beam balance performance (p<0.01) and hindlimb placement behavior (p<0.01). tMCAO produced much greater and prolonged cognitive deficits in APA learning (maximum on last trial of 604±83% change, p<0.05) but only a small, comparative effect on PA retention. Hemispheric loss/atrophy was measured 10 weeks after tMCAO and cross-validated by two methods (e.g., almost identical % ischemic hemispheric loss of 33.4±3.5% for H&E and of 34.2±3.5% for TTC staining). No visual dysfunction by ERG and no hippocampus neuronal loss were detected after tMCAO. Fiber tract damage measured by Luxol Fast Blue myelin staining intensity was significant (p<0.01) in the external capsule and striatum but not in corpus callosum and anterior commissure. In summary, persistent neurobehavioral deficits were validated as important endpoints for stroke restorative research in the future. Fiber myelin loss appears to contribute to these long term behavioral dysfunctions and can be important for cognitive behavioral control necessary for complex APA learning.
A quantitative trait locus (QTL) linked with ability to find a platform in the Morris Water Maze (MWM) was located on chromosome 17 (Nav-5 QTL) using intercross between Dahl S and Dahl R rats. We developed two congenic strains, S.R17A and S.R17B introgressing Dahl R-chromosome 17 segments into Dahl S chromosome 17 region spanning putative Nav-5 QTL. Performance analysis of S.R17A, S.R17B and Dahl S rats in the Morris water maze (MWM) task showed a significantly decreased spatial navigation performance in S.R17B congenic rats when compared with Dahl S controls (P = 0.02). The S.R17A congenic segment did not affect MWM performance delimiting Nav-5 to the chromosome 17 65.02–74.66 Mbp region. Additional fine mapping is necessary to identify the specific gene variant accounting for Nav-5 effect on spatial learning and memory in Dahl rats.
The Strange Situation Procedure (SSP) is increasingly being used to study attachment between dogs and humans. It has been developed from the Ainsworth Strange Situation Procedure, which is used extensively to investigate attachment between children and their parents. In this experiment, 12 female beagle dogs were tested in two treatments to identify possible order effects in the test, a potential weakness in the SSP. In one treatment (FS), dogs participated together with a ‘familiar person’ and a ‘stranger’. In a control treatment (SS), the same dogs participated together with two unfamiliar people, ‘stranger A’ and ‘stranger B’. Comparisons were made between episodes within as well as between treatments. As predicted in FS, dogs explored more in the presence of the familiar person than the stranger. Importantly, they also explored more in the presence of stranger A (who appeared in the same order as the familiar person and followed the same procedure) than stranger B in SS. Furthermore, comparisons between treatments, where a familiar person was present in FS and stranger A was present in SS, showed no differences in exploration. In combination, these results indicate that the effect of a familiar person on dogs' exploratory behaviour, a key feature when assessing secure attachment styles, could not be tested reliably due to the order in which the familiar person and the stranger appear. It is proposed that in the future only counterbalanced versions of the SSP are used. Alternatively, since dogs reliably initiated more contact with the familiar person compared to the strangers, it is suggested that future studies on attachment in dogs towards humans should focus either on the behaviour of the dog in those episodes of the SSP when the person returns, or on reunion behaviour in other studies, specially designed to address dog-human interactions at this time.
Nectins are cell adhesion molecules that are widely expressed in the brain. Nectin expression shows a dynamic spatiotemporal regulation, playing a role in neural migratory processes during development. Nectin-1 and nectin-3 and their heterophilic trans-interactions are important for the proper formation of synapses. In the hippocampus, nectin-1 and nectin-3 localize at puncta adherentia junctions and may play a role in synaptic plasticity, a mechanism essential for memory and learning. We evaluated the potential involvement of nectin-1 and nectin-3 in memory consolidation using an emotional learning paradigm. Rats trained for contextual fear conditioning showed transient nectin-1—but not nectin-3—protein upregulation in synapse-enriched hippocampal fractions at about 2 h posttraining. The upregulation of nectin-1 was found exclusively in the ventral hippocampus and was apparent in the synaptoneurosomal fraction. This upregulation was induced by contextual fear conditioning but not by exposure to context or shock alone. When an antibody against nectin-1, R165, was infused in the ventral-hippocampus immediately after training, contextual fear memory was impaired. However, treatment with the antibody in the dorsal hippocampus had no effect in contextual fear memory formation. Similarly, treatment with the antibody in the ventral hippocampus did not interfere with acoustic memory formation. Further control experiments indicated that the effects of ventral hippocampal infusion of the nectin-1 antibody in contextual fear memory cannot be ascribed to memory non-specific effects such as changes in anxiety-like behavior or locomotor behavior. Therefore, we conclude that nectin-1 recruitment to the perisynaptic environment in the ventral hippocampus plays an important role in the formation of contextual fear memories. Our results suggest that these mechanisms could be involved in the connection of emotional and contextual information processed in the amygdala and dorsal hippocampus, respectively, thus opening new venues for the development of treatments to psychopathological alterations linked to impaired contextualization of emotions.
Emotions can bias human decisions- for example depressed or anxious people tend to make pessimistic judgements while those in positive affective states are often more optimistic. Several studies have reported that affect contingent judgement biases can also be produced in animals. The animals, however, cannot self-report; therefore, the valence of their emotions, to date, could only be assumed. Here we present the results of an experiment where the affect-contingent judgement bias has been produced by objectively measured positive emotions. We trained rats in operant Skinner boxes to press one lever in response to one tone to receive a food reward and to press another lever in response to a different tone to avoid punishment by electric foot shock. After attaining a stable level of discrimination performance, the animals were subjected to either handling or playful, experimenter-administered manual stimulation – tickling. This procedure has been confirmed to induce a positive affective state in rats, and the 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalisations (rat laughter) emitted by animals in response to tickling have been postulated to index positive emotions akin to human joy. During the tickling and handling sessions, the numbers of emitted high-frequency 50-kHz calls were scored. Immediately after tickling or handling, the animals were tested for their responses to a tone of intermediate frequency, and the pattern of their responses to this ambiguous cue was taken as an indicator of the animals' optimism. Our findings indicate that tickling induced positive emotions which are directly indexed in rats by laughter, can make animals more optimistic. We demonstrate for the first time a link between the directly measured positive affective state and decision making under uncertainty in an animal model. We also introduce innovative tandem-approach for studying emotional-cognitive interplay in animals, which may be of great value for understanding the emotional-cognitive changes associated with mood disorders.
In behavioural experiments, motivation to learn can be achieved using food rewards as positive reinforcement in food-restricted animals. Previous studies reduce animal weights to 80–90% of free-feeding body weight as the criterion for food restriction. However, effects of different degrees of food restriction on task performance have not been assessed. We compared learning task performance in mice food-restricted to 80 or 90% body weight (BW). We used adult wildtype (WT; C57Bl/6j) and knockout (ephrin-A2−/−) mice, previously shown to have a reverse learning deficit. Mice were trained in a two-choice visual discrimination task with food reward as positive reinforcement. When mice reached criterion for one visual stimulus (80% correct in three consecutive 10 trial sets) they began the reverse learning phase, where the rewarded stimulus was switched to the previously incorrect stimulus. For the initial learning and reverse phase of the task, mice at 90%BW took almost twice as many trials to reach criterion as mice at 80%BW. Furthermore, WT 80 and 90%BW groups significantly differed in percentage correct responses and learning strategy in the reverse learning phase, whereas no differences between weight restriction groups were observed in ephrin-A2−/− mice. Most importantly, genotype-specific differences in reverse learning strategy were only detected in the 80%BW groups. Our results indicate that increased food restriction not only results in better performance and a shorter training period, but may also be necessary for revealing behavioural differences between experimental groups. This has important ethical and animal welfare implications when deciding extent of diet restriction in behavioural studies.
Division of labor, an adaptation in which individuals specialize in performing tasks necessary to the colony, such as nest defense and foraging, is believed key to eusocial insects' remarkable ecological success. Here we report, for the first time, a completely novel specialization in a eusocial insect, namely the ability of Cataglyphis cursor ants to rescue a trapped nestmate using precisely targeted behavior. Labeled “precision rescue”, this behavior involves the ability of rescuers not only to detect what, exactly, holds the victim in place, but also to direct specific actions to this obstacle. Individual ants, sampled from each of C. cursor's three castes, namely foragers, nurses and inactives, were experimentally ensnared (the “victim”) and exposed to a caste-specific group of potential “rescuers.” The data reveal that foragers were able to administer, and obtain, the most help while members of the youngest, inactive caste not only failed to respond to victims, but also received virtually no help from potential rescuers, regardless of caste. Nurses performed intermediate levels of aid, mirroring their intermediate caste status. Our results demonstrate that division of labor, which controls foraging, defense and brood care in C. cursor, also regulates a newly discovered behavior in this species, namely a sophisticated form of rescue, a highly adaptive specialization that is finely tuned to a caste member's probability of becoming, or encountering, a victim in need of rescue.
Math can be difficult, and for those with high levels of mathematics-anxiety (HMAs), math is associated with tension, apprehension, and fear. But what underlies the feelings of dread effected by math anxiety? Are HMAs’ feelings about math merely psychological epiphenomena, or is their anxiety grounded in simulation of a concrete, visceral sensation – such as pain – about which they have every right to feel anxious? We show that, when anticipating an upcoming math-task, the higher one’s math anxiety, the more one increases activity in regions associated with visceral threat detection, and often the experience of pain itself (bilateral dorso-posterior insula). Interestingly, this relation was not seen during math performance, suggesting that it is not that math itself hurts; rather, the anticipation of math is painful. Our data suggest that pain network activation underlies the intuition that simply anticipating a dreaded event can feel painful. These results may also provide a potential neural mechanism to explain why HMAs tend to avoid math and math-related situations, which in turn can bias HMAs away from taking math classes or even entire math-related career paths.
Enhancing laboratory animal welfare, particularly in rodents, has been achieved through environmental enrichment in caging systems. Traditional enrichment such as adding objects has shown to impact development, reproductive and maternal performance as well as cognition. However, effects of increased spatial complexity as part of larger novel caging systems have not been investigated. While adoption of caging systems with increased spatial complexity seems uncontroversial from a welfare perspective, effects of such housing on the development and task performance of experimental animals remains unclear. In this study, we investigate differences in key behaviours and cognitive performance between Lister Hooded rats housed in traditional (single-shelf) cages (‘basic’) and those housed in larger cages with an additional shelf (‘enriched’). We found minor differences in maternal behaviour, such as nursing and offspring development. Further, we compared task performance in females, using a hippocampus-dependent task (T-maze) and a hippocampus-independent task (Novel Object Recognition, NOR). While in the T-maze no differences in either the rate of learning or probe trial performance were found, in the NOR task females housed in enriched cages performed better than those housed in basic cages. Our results show that increased spatial complexity does not significantly affect development and maternal performance but may enhance learning in females for a non-spatial task. Increased spatial complexity does not appear to have the same effects on behaviour and development as traditional enrichment. Thus, our results suggest no effect of housing conditions on the development of most behaviours in experimental animals housed in spatially enriched caging systems.
For social omnivores such as rats and humans, taste is far more than a chemical sense activated by food. By virtue of evolutionary and epigenetic elaboration, taste is associated with negative affect, stress vulnerability, responses to psychoactive substances, pain, and social judgment. A crucial gap in this literature, which spans behavior genetics, affective and social neuroscience, and embodied cognition, concerns links between taste and social behavior in rats. Here we show that rats selectively bred for low saccharin intake are subordinate to high-saccharin-consuming rats when they compete in weight-matched dyads for food, a task used to model depression. Statistical and experimental controls suggest that differential resource utilization within dyads is not an artifact of individual-level processes such as apparatus habituation or ingestive motivation. Tail skin temperature measurements showed that LoS rats display larger hyperthermic responses to social interaction after status is established, evidence linking taste, social stress, autonomic reactivity, and depression-like symptoms. Based on regression using early- and late-competition predictors to predict dyadic disparity in final competition scores, we tentatively suggest that HiS rats emerge as dominant both because of an “early surge” on their part and because LoS acquiesce later. These findings should invigorate the comparative study of individual differences in social status and its relationship to mental and physical health.
Postures have long been used and proved useful to describe animals’ behaviours and emotional states, but remains difficult to assess objectively in field conditions. A recent study performed on horses using geometric morphometrics revealed important postural differences between 2 horse populations differing in management conditions (leisure horses living in social groups used for occasional “relaxed” riding/riding school horses living in individual boxes used in daily riding lessons with more constraining techniques). It was suggested that these postural differences may reflect chronic effects of riding techniques on the horses’ kinematics and muscular development. In the present study, we tried to evaluate the interest of postural measures to assess welfare in horses. This study was separated into 2 parts. First, 18 horses coming from these 2 types of populations (leisure/riding school horses) were submitted to 2 back evaluations by 1) manual examination (experienced practitioner) and 2) sEMG measures along the spine. We then measured neck roundness on 16 of these 18 horses. The results highlighted high correlations between manual and sEMG examinations over the spine. sEMG measures at the different locations were strongly correlated all over the spine. Moreover, neck postures and muscular activities were strongly correlated, horses with concave necks having higher sEMG measures both at precise locations (i.e. cervical sites) but also when comparing neck postures to the whole spine muscular activity highlighting the functioning of horses’ back as a whole. Lastly, strong differences appeared between the populations, leisure horses being evaluated as having sounder spines, exhibiting lower sEMG measures and rounder neck than the riding school horses. sEMG measures and neck “roundness” seemed therefore to be reliable indicators of back disorders, easy to evaluate in field conditions. This highlights the accuracy of using postural elements to evaluate the animals’ general state and has important implications for animals’ welfare evaluations.
Ear tattooing is a routine procedure performed on laboratory, commercial and companion rabbits for the purpose of identification. Although this procedure is potentially painful, it is usually performed without the provision of analgesia, so compromising animal welfare. Furthermore, current means to assess pain in rabbits are poor and more reliable methods are required. The objectives of this study were to assess the physiological and behavioural effects of ear tattooing on rabbits, evaluate the analgesic efficacy of topical local anaesthetic cream application prior to this procedure, and to develop a scale to assess pain in rabbits based on changes in facial expression.
In a crossover study, eight New Zealand White rabbits each underwent four different treatments of actual or sham ear tattooing, with and without prior application of a topical local anaesthetic (lidocaine/prilocaine). Changes in immediate behaviour, heart rate, arterial blood pressure, serum corticosterone concentrations, facial expression and home pen behaviours were assessed. Changes in facial expression were examined to develop the Rabbit Grimace Scale in order to assess acute pain. Tattooing without EMLA cream resulted in significantly greater struggling behaviour and vocalisation, greater facial expression scores of pain, higher peak heart rate, as well as higher systolic and mean arterial blood pressure compared to all other treatments. Physiological and behavioural changes following tattooing with EMLA cream were similar to those in animals receiving sham tattoos with or without EMLA cream. Behavioural changes 1 hour post-treatment were minimal with no pain behaviours identifiable in any group. Serum corticosterone responses did not differ between sham and tattoo treatments.
Ear tattooing causes transient and potentially severe pain in rabbits, which is almost completely prevented by prior application of local anaesthetic cream. The Rabbit Grimace Scale developed appears to be a reliable and accurate way to assess acute pain in rabbits.
Safeguarding the welfare of animals is an important aim when defining housing and management standards in animal based, experimental research. While such standards are usually defined per animal species, it is known that considerable differences between laboratory mouse strains exist, for example with regard to their emotional traits. Following earlier experiments, in which we found that 129P3 mice show a lack of habituation of anxiety related behaviour after repeated exposure to an initially novel environment (non-adaptive profile), we here investigated four other 129 inbred mouse substrains (129S2/SvPas, 129S2/SvHsd (exp 1); 129P2 and 129X1 (exp 2)) on habituation of anxiety related behaviour. Male mice of each strain were repeatedly placed in the modified hole board test, measuring anxiety-related behaviour, exploratory and locomotor behaviour. The results reveal that all four substrains show a lack of habituation behaviour throughout the period of testing. Although not in all of the substrains a possible confounding effect of general activity can be excluded, our findings suggest that the genetic background of the 129 substrains may increase their vulnerability to cope with environmental challenges, such as exposure to novelty. This vulnerability might negatively affect the welfare of these mice under standard laboratory conditions when compared with other strains. Based on our findings we suggest to consider (sub)strain-specific guidelines and protocols, taking the (subs)train-specific adaptive capabilities into account.
ENGRAILED 2 (En2), a homeobox transcription factor, functions as a patterning gene in the early development and connectivity of rodent hindbrain and cerebellum, and regulates neurogenesis and development of monoaminergic pathways. To further understand the neurobiological functions of En2, we conducted neuroanatomical expression profiling of En2 wildtype mice. RTQPCR assays demonstrated that En2 is expressed in adult brain structures including the somatosensory cortex, hippocampus, striatum, thalamus, hypothalamus and brainstem. Human genetic studies indicate that EN2 is associated with autism. To determine the consequences of En2 mutations on mouse behaviors, including outcomes potentially relevant to autism, we conducted comprehensive phenotyping of social, communication, repetitive, and cognitive behaviors. En2 null mutants exhibited robust deficits in reciprocal social interactions as juveniles and adults, and absence of sociability in adults, replicated in two independent cohorts. Fear conditioning and water maze learning were impaired in En2 null mutants. High immobility in the forced swim test, reduced prepulse inhibition, mild motor coordination impairments and reduced grip strength were detected in En2 null mutants. No genotype differences were found on measures of ultrasonic vocalizations in social contexts, and no stereotyped or repetitive behaviors were observed. Developmental milestones, general health, olfactory abilities, exploratory locomotor activity, anxiety-like behaviors and pain responses did not differ across genotypes, indicating that the behavioral abnormalities detected in En2 null mutants were not attributable to physical or procedural confounds. Our findings provide new insight into the role of En2 in complex behaviors and suggest that disturbances in En2 signaling may contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders marked by social and cognitive deficits, including autism spectrum disorders.
The hop (Humulus lupulus L.), a component of beer, is a sedative plant whose pharmacological activity is principally due to its bitter resins, in particular to the α-acid degradation product 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol. The mechanism of action of hop resin consists of raising the levels of the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter acting in the central nervous system (CNS).
To analyze the sedative effect of hops as a component of non-alcoholic beer on the sleep/wake rhythm in a work-stressed population.
The experiment was conducted with healthy female nurses (n = 17) working rotating and/or night shifts. Overnight sleep and chronobiological parameters were assessed by actigraphy (Actiwatch®) after moderate ingestion of non-alcoholic beer containing hops (333 ml with 0,0% alcohol) with supper for 14 days (treatment). Data were obtained in comparison with her own control group without consumption of beer during supper.
Actigraphy results demonstrated improvement of night sleep quality as regards the most important parameters: Sleep Latency diminished (p≤0.05) in the Treatment group (12.01±1.19 min) when compared to the Control group (20.50±4.21 min), as also did Total Activity (p≤0.05; Treatment group = 5284.78±836.99 activity pulses vs Control = 7258.78±898.89 activity pulses). In addition, anxiety as indexed by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) decreased in the Treatment group (State Anxiety 18.09±3.8 vs Control 20.69±2.14).
The moderate consumption of non-alcoholic beer will favour night-time rest, due in particular to its hop components, in addition to its other confirmed benefits for the organism.
Lethal spring traps are widely used for killing small mammals in the UK. Many require government approval, based primarily on humaneness. However, mole traps and break-back traps for rats and mice are exempt; those available vary widely in price and apparent quality. The EU is considering implementing a Trapping Directive that would alter UK legislation, and a recent report advised the EU that trapping legislation should cover all trapped species and encourage improvement of traps. Mechanical trap performance is often used as an indicator of welfare impact. We examined the mechanical evidence for scope to improve the welfare standards of rat, mouse and mole spring traps. We measured mechanical performance among a range of rat, mouse and mole traps. Impact momentum values varied 6-8 fold, and clamping force values 4-5.5 fold, among traps for killing each species. There was considerable overlap in the performance of rat and mouse traps. Trap-opening angle and spring type were related to impact momentum and clamping force in traps for both species. There was no relationship between price and mechanical performance in traps for any species, except talpa mole traps. We are unable to judge the direct welfare impact of the traps tested, but rather the potential welfare threat associated with their exemption from approval. The wide variation in mechanical performance in traps for each species, overlap in performance between rat and mouse traps and increasing availability of weaker plastic rodent traps indicate considerable scope for improving the humaneness of spring traps for rats, mice and moles. We conclude that all such traps should be subject to the UK approval process. New welfare categories might improve trap standards further. Our results could also help improve rodent trap design and assist consumers in selecting more powerful traps. Many thousands of rats, mice and moles might benefit.
We are routinely exposed to low frequency noise (LFN; below 0.5 kHz) at moderate levels of 60–70 dB sound pressure level (SPL) generated from various sources in occupational and daily environments. LFN has been reported to affect balance in humans. However, there is limited information about the influence of chronic exposure to LFN at moderate levels for balance. In this study, we investigated whether chronic exposure to LFN at a moderate level of 70 dB SPL affects the vestibule, which is one of the organs responsible for balance in mice. Wild-type ICR mice were exposed for 1 month to LFN (0.1 kHz) and high frequency noise (HFN; 16 kHz) at 70 dB SPL at a distance of approximately 10–20 cm. Behavior analyses including rotarod, beam-crossing and footprint analyses showed impairments of balance in LFN-exposed mice but not in non-exposed mice or HFN-exposed mice. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a decreased number of vestibular hair cells and increased levels of oxidative stress in LFN-exposed mice compared to those in non-exposed mice. Our results suggest that chronic exposure to LFN at moderate levels causes impaired balance involving morphological impairments of the vestibule with enhanced levels of oxidative stress. Thus, the results of this study indicate the importance of considering the risk of chronic exposure to LFN at a moderate level for imbalance.
Recent reviews question current animal models of depression and emphasise the need for ethological models of mood disorders based on animals living under natural conditions. Domestic horses encounter chronic stress, including potential stress at work, which can induce behavioural disorders (e.g. “apathy”). Our pioneering study evaluated the potential of domestic horses in their usual environment to become an ethological model of depression by testing this models’ face validity (i.e. behavioural similarity with descriptions of human depressive states).
We observed the spontaneous behaviour of 59 working horses in their home environment, focusing on immobility bouts of apparent unresponsiveness when horses displayed an atypical posture (termed withdrawn hereafter), evaluated their responsiveness to their environment and their anxiety levels, and analysed cortisol levels. Twenty-four percent of the horses presented the withdrawn posture, also characterized by gaze, head and ears fixity, a profile that suggests a spontaneous expression of “behavioural despair”. When compared with control “non-withdrawn” horses from the same stable, withdrawn horses appeared more indifferent to environmental stimuli in their home environment but reacted more emotionally in more challenging situations. They exhibited lower plasma cortisol levels. Withdrawn horses all belonged to the same breed and females were over-represented.
Horse might be a useful potential candidate for an animal model of depression. Face validity of this model appeared good, and potential genetic input and high prevalence of these disorders in females add to the convergence. At a time when current animal models of depression are questioned and the need for novel models is expressed, this study suggests that novel models and biomarkers could emerge from ethological approaches in home environments.
Reduced responsiveness to positive stimuli is a core symptom of depression, known as anhedonia. In the present study, we assessed the expression of anhedonia in our chronic stress mouse model using a subset of read-out parameters. In line with this, we investigated in how far chronic stress would affect the facilitating effect of post-training self-administration of sugar, as we previously observed in naïve mice. Male C57BL/6J mice were repeatedly and at unpredictable times exposed to rats (no physical contact) over the course of two weeks. Following novelty exploration, (non-) spatial learning and memory processes with and without post-training sugar acting as reinforcer, emotionality, reward sensitivity and corticosterone levels were determined. We found that (1) the effects of chronic stress persisted beyond the period of the actual rat exposure. (2) Post-training self-administration of sugar as reinforcer improved spatial performance in naïve mice, whereas (3) in stressed mice sugar partially “normalized” the impaired performance to the level of controls without sugar. Chronic stress (4) increased behavioral inhibition in response to novelty; (5) induced dynamic changes in the pattern of circadian corticosterone secretion during the first week after rat stress and (6) increased the intake of sucrose and water. (7) Chronic stress and sugar consumed during spatial training facilitated the memory for the location of the sucrose bottle weeks later. Concluding, our chronic stress paradigm induces the expression of anhedonia in mice, at different levels of behavior. The behavioral inhibition appears to be long lasting in stressed mice. Interestingly, sugar consumed in close context with spatial learning partially rescued the stress-induced emotional and cognitive impairments. This suggests that reward can ameliorate part of the negative consequences of chronic stress on memory.
Affective symptoms such as anxiety and depression are frequently observed in patients with epilepsy. The mechanisms of comorbidity of epilepsy and affective disorders, however, remain unclear. Diverse models are traditionally used in epilepsy research, including the status epilepticus (SE) model in rats, which are aimed at generating chronic epileptic animals; however, the implications of different SE models and rat strains in emotional behaviors has not been reported. To address this issue, we examined the emotional sequelae of two SE models of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) – the lithium-pilocarpine (LIP) model and the kainic acid (KA) model – in two different rat strains (Wistar and Sprague-Dawley), which differ significantly in the pattern and extent of TLE-associated brain lesions. We found differences between LIP- and KA-treated animals in tests for depression-like and anxiety-like behaviors, as well as differences in plasma corticosterone levels. Whereas only LIP-treated rats displayed increased motivation to consume saccharin, both SE models led to reduced motivation for social contact, with LIP-treated animals being particularly affected. Evaluation of behavior in the open field test indicated very low levels of anxiety in LIP-treated rats and a mild decrease in KA-treated rats compared to controls. After exposure to a battery of behavioral tests, plasma corticosterone levels were increased only in LIP-treated animals. This hyperactivity in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis was highly correlated with performance in the open field test and the social interaction test, suggesting that comorbidity of epilepsy and emotional behaviors might also be related to other factors such as HPA axis function. Our results indicate that altered emotional behaviors are not inherent to the epileptic condition in experimental TLE; instead, they likely reflect alterations in anxiety levels related to model-dependent dysregulation of the HPA axis.
The tail suspension test (TST) is widely recognized as a useful experimental paradigm for assessing antidepressant activity and depression-like behavior. We have previously identified ubiquitin-specific peptidase 46 (Usp46) as a quantitative trait gene responsible for decreasing immobility time in the TST in mice. This Usp46 mutation has a 3-bp deletion coding for lysine in the open reading frame, and we indicated that Usp46 is implicated in the regulation of the GABAergic system. However, it is not known precisely how the immobile behavior is regulated by the GABAergic system. Therefore, in the present study, we examined whether the immobility time is influenced by drugs affecting the action mediated by GABAA receptor using both 3-bp deleted (the Usp46 mutant) and null Usp46 (Usp46 KO) mice. Nitrazepam, an agonist at the benzodiazepine-binding site of the GABAA receptor, which potentiates the action of GABA, produced a dose-dependent increase in TST immobility time in the Usp46 mutant mice without affecting general behaviors. The Usp46 KO mice exhibited short immobility times comparable to the Usp46 mutant mice, which was also increased by nitrazepam administration. The effects of nitrazepam in the Usp46 mutant and KO mice were antagonized by flumazenil. These results indicate that the 3-bp deleted Usp46 mutation causes a loss-of-function phenotype, and that the GABAA receptor might participate in the regulation of TST immobility time.
Variations of breeding success with age have been studied largely in iteroparous species and particularly in birds: survival of offspring increases with parental age until senescence. Nevertheless, these results are from observations of free-living individuals and therefore, it remains impossible to determine whether these variations result from parental investment or efficiency or both, and whether these variations occur during the prenatal or the postnatal stage or during both. Our study aimed first, to determine whether age had an impact on the expression of maternal breeding care by comparing inexperienced female birds of two different ages, and second, to define how these potential differences impact chicks’ growth and behavioural development. We made 22 2-month-old and 22 8-month-old female Japanese quail foster 1-day-old chicks. We observed their maternal behaviour until the chicks were 11 days old and then tested these chicks after separation from their mothers. Several behavioural tests estimated their fearfulness and their sociality. We observed first that a longer induction was required for young females to express maternal behaviour. Subsequently as many young females as elder females expressed maternal behaviour, but young females warmed chicks less, expressed less covering postures and rejected their chicks more. Chicks brooded by elder females presented higher growth rates and more fearfulness and sociality. Our results reveal that maternal investment increased with age independently of maternal experience, suggesting modification of hormone levels implied in maternal behaviour. Isolated effects of maternal experience should now be assessed in females of the same age. In addition, our results show, for first time in birds, that variations in maternal care directly induce important differences in the behavioural development of chicks. Finally, our results confirm that Japanese quail remains a great laboratory model of avian maternal behaviour and that the way we sample maternal behaviour is highly productive.
The ability to invent means to deceive others, where the deception lies in the perceptually or contextually detached future, appears to require the coordination of sophisticated cognitive skills toward a single goal. Meanwhile innovation for a current situation has been observed in a wide range of species. Planning, on the one hand, and the social cognition required for deception on the other, have been linked to one another, both from a co-evolutionary and a neuroanatomical perspective. Innovation and deception have also been suggested to be connected in their nature of relying on novelty.
We report on systematic observations suggesting innovation for future deception by a captive male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). As an extension of previously described behaviour – caching projectiles for later throwing at zoo visitors – the chimpanzee, again in advance, manufactured concealments from hay, as well as used naturally occurring concealments. All were placed near the visitors' observation area, allowing the chimpanzee to make throws before the crowd could back off. We observed what was likely the first instance of this innovation. Further observations showed that the creation of future-oriented concealments became the significantly preferred strategy. What is more, the chimpanzee appeared consistently to combine two deceptive strategies: hiding projectiles and inhibiting dominance display behaviour.
The findings suggest that chimpanzees can represent the future behaviours of others while those others are not present, as well as take actions in the current situation towards such potential future behaviours. Importantly, the behaviour of the chimpanzee produced a future event, rather than merely prepared for an event that had been reliably re-occurring in the past. These findings might indicate that the chimpanzee recombined episodic memories in perceptual simulations.
Maladaptive impulsivity is a core symptom in various psychiatric disorders. However, there is only limited evidence available on whether different measures of impulsivity represent largely unrelated aspects or a unitary construct. In a cross-species translational study, thirty rats were trained in impulsive choice (delayed reward task) and impulsive action (five-choice serial reaction time task) paradigms. The correlation between those measures was assessed during baseline performance and after pharmacological manipulations with the psychostimulant amphetamine and the norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine. In parallel, to validate the animal data, 101 human subjects performed analogous measures of impulsive choice (delay discounting task, DDT) and impulsive action (immediate and delayed memory task, IMT/DMT). Moreover, all subjects completed the Stop Signal Task (SST, as an additional measure of impulsive action) and filled out the Barratt impulsiveness scale (BIS-11). Correlations between DDT and IMT/DMT were determined and a principal component analysis was performed on all human measures of impulsivity. In both rats and humans measures of impulsive choice and impulsive action did not correlate. In rats the within-subject pharmacological effects of amphetamine and atomoxetine did not correlate between tasks, suggesting distinct underlying neural correlates. Furthermore, in humans, principal component analysis identified three independent factors: (1) self-reported impulsivity (BIS-11); (2) impulsive action (IMT/DMT and SST); (3) impulsive choice (DDT). This is the first study directly comparing aspects of impulsivity using a cross-species translational approach. The present data reveal the non-unitary nature of impulsivity on a behavioral and pharmacological level. Collectively, this warrants a stronger focus on the relative contribution of distinct forms of impulsivity in psychopathology.