Stress or no stress: Mineralocorticoid receptors in the forebrain regulate behavioral adaptation

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Neurobiol Learn Mem, Volume 98, Number 1, p.33–40 (2012)


1095-9564 (Electronic)10

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Corticosteroid effects on cognitive abilities during behavioral adaptation to stress are mediated by two types of receptors. While the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is mainly involved in the consolidation of memory, the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mediates appraisal and initial responses to novelty. Recent findings in humans and mice suggest that under stress, the MR might be involved in the use of different learning strategies. Here, we used male mice lacking the MR in the forebrain (MR(CaMKCre)), which were subjected to 5-10min acute restraint stress, followed 30min later by training trials on the circular hole board. Mice had to locate an exit hole using extra- and intra-maze cues. We assessed performance and the use of spatial and stimulus-response strategies. Non-stressed MR(CaMKCre) mice showed delayed learning as compared to control littermates. Prior stress impaired performance in controls, but did not further deteriorate learning in MR(CaMKCre) mice. When stressed, 20-30% of both MR(CaMKCre) and control mice switched from a spatial to a stimulus-response strategy, which rescued performance in MR(CaMKCre) mice. Furthermore, MR(CaMKCre) mice showed increased GR mRNA expression in all CA areas of the hippocampus and an altered basal and stress-induced corticosterone secretion, which supports their role in the modulation of neuroendocrine activity. In conclusion, our data provide evidence for the critical role of MR in the fast formation of spatial memory. In the absence of forebrain MR spatial learning performance was under basal circumstances impaired, while after stress further deterioration of performance was rescued by switching behavior increasingly to a stimulus-response strategy.