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Establishing a learned-helplessness effect paradigm in C57BL/6 mice: behavioural evidence for emotional, motivational and cognitive effects of aversive uncontrollability per se


Pryce, Christopher R; Azzinnari, Damiano; Sigrist, Hannes; Gschwind, Tilo; Lesch, Klaus-Peter; Seifritz, Erich (2012). Establishing a learned-helplessness effect paradigm in C57BL/6 mice: behavioural evidence for emotional, motivational and cognitive effects of aversive uncontrollability per se. Neuropharmacology, 62(1):358-372.

Abstract

Uncontrollability of major life events has been proposed to be central to depression onset and maintenance. The learned helplessness (LH) effect describes a deficit in terminating controllable aversive stimuli in individuals that experienced aversive stimuli as uncontrollable relative to individuals that experienced the same stimuli as controllable. The LH effect translates across species and therefore can provide an objective-valid readout in animal models of depression. Paradigms for a robust LH effect are established and currently applied in rat but there are few reports of prior and current study of the LH effect in mouse. This includes the C57BL/6 mouse, typically the strain of choice for application of molecular-genetic tools in pre-clinical depression research. The aims of this study were to develop a robust paradigm for the LH effect in BL/6 mice, provide evidence for underlying psychological processes, and study the effect of a depression-relevant genotype on the LH effect. The apparatus used for in/escapable electro-shock exposure and escape test was a two-way shuttle arena with continuous automated measurement of locomotion, compartment transfers, e-shock escapes, vertical activity and freezing. Brother-pairs of BL/6 mice were allocated to either escapable e-shocks (ES) or inescapable e-shocks (IS), with escape latencies of the ES brother used as e-shock durations for the IS brother. The standard two-way shuttle paradigm was modified: the central gate was replaced by a raised divider and e-shock escape required transfer to the distal part of the safe compartment. These refinements yielded reduced superstitious, pre-adaptive e-shock transfers in IS mice and thereby increased the LH effect. To obtain a robust LH effect in all brother pairs, pre-screening for minor between-brother ES differences was necessary and did not confound the LH effect. IS mice developed reduced motor responses to e-shock, consistent with a motivational deficit, and absence of a learning curve for escapes at escape test, consistent with a cognitive deficit. When a tone CS was used to predict e-shock, IS mice exhibited increased reactivity to the CS, consistent with hyper-emotionality. There was no ES-IS difference in pain sensitivity. Mice heterozygous knockout for the 5-HTT gene exhibited an increased LH effect relative to wildtype mice. This mouse model will allow for the detailed molecular study of the aetiology, psychology, neurobiology and neuropharmacology of uncontrollability of aversive stimuli, a potential major aetiological factor and state marker in depression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.

Uncontrollability of major life events has been proposed to be central to depression onset and maintenance. The learned helplessness (LH) effect describes a deficit in terminating controllable aversive stimuli in individuals that experienced aversive stimuli as uncontrollable relative to individuals that experienced the same stimuli as controllable. The LH effect translates across species and therefore can provide an objective-valid readout in animal models of depression. Paradigms for a robust LH effect are established and currently applied in rat but there are few reports of prior and current study of the LH effect in mouse. This includes the C57BL/6 mouse, typically the strain of choice for application of molecular-genetic tools in pre-clinical depression research. The aims of this study were to develop a robust paradigm for the LH effect in BL/6 mice, provide evidence for underlying psychological processes, and study the effect of a depression-relevant genotype on the LH effect. The apparatus used for in/escapable electro-shock exposure and escape test was a two-way shuttle arena with continuous automated measurement of locomotion, compartment transfers, e-shock escapes, vertical activity and freezing. Brother-pairs of BL/6 mice were allocated to either escapable e-shocks (ES) or inescapable e-shocks (IS), with escape latencies of the ES brother used as e-shock durations for the IS brother. The standard two-way shuttle paradigm was modified: the central gate was replaced by a raised divider and e-shock escape required transfer to the distal part of the safe compartment. These refinements yielded reduced superstitious, pre-adaptive e-shock transfers in IS mice and thereby increased the LH effect. To obtain a robust LH effect in all brother pairs, pre-screening for minor between-brother ES differences was necessary and did not confound the LH effect. IS mice developed reduced motor responses to e-shock, consistent with a motivational deficit, and absence of a learning curve for escapes at escape test, consistent with a cognitive deficit. When a tone CS was used to predict e-shock, IS mice exhibited increased reactivity to the CS, consistent with hyper-emotionality. There was no ES-IS difference in pain sensitivity. Mice heterozygous knockout for the 5-HTT gene exhibited an increased LH effect relative to wildtype mice. This mouse model will allow for the detailed molecular study of the aetiology, psychology, neurobiology and neuropharmacology of uncontrollability of aversive stimuli, a potential major aetiological factor and state marker in depression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:03 Apr 2012 06:43
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:35
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0028-3908
Publisher DOI:10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.08.012
PubMed ID:21864549
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-58735

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