Post-training reward partially restores chronic stress induced effects in mice

Publication Type:

Journal Article


PLoS One, Volume 7, Number 6, p.e39033 (2012)


1932-6203 (Electronic)19

DOI Name (links to online publication)



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 naive 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 naive 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.