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Appetitively motivated tasks in the IntelliCage reveal a higher motivational cost of spatial learning in male than female mice


Nigri, Martina; Bramati, Giulia; Steiner, Adrian C; Wolfer, David P (2024). Appetitively motivated tasks in the IntelliCage reveal a higher motivational cost of spatial learning in male than female mice. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 18:1270159.

Abstract

The IntelliCage (IC) permits the assessment of the behavior and learning abilities of mice in a social home cage context. To overcome water deprivation as an aversive driver of learning, we developed protocols in which spatial learning is motivated appetitively by the preference of mice for sweetened over plain water. While plain water is available at all times, only correct task responses give access to sweetened water rewards. Under these conditions, C57BL/6J mice successfully mastered a corner preference task with the reversal and also learned a more difficult time-place task with reversal. However, the rate of responding to sweetened water decreased strongly with increasing task difficulty, indicating that learning challenges and reduced success in obtaining rewards decreased the motivation of the animals to seek sweetened water. While C57BL/6J mice of both sexes showed similar initial taste preferences and learned similarly well in simple learning tasks, the rate of responding to sweetened water and performance dropped more rapidly in male than in female mice in response to increasing learning challenges. Taken together, our data indicate that male mice can have a disadvantage relative to females in mastering difficult, appetitively motivated learning tasks, likely due to sex differences in value-based decision-making.

Abstract

The IntelliCage (IC) permits the assessment of the behavior and learning abilities of mice in a social home cage context. To overcome water deprivation as an aversive driver of learning, we developed protocols in which spatial learning is motivated appetitively by the preference of mice for sweetened over plain water. While plain water is available at all times, only correct task responses give access to sweetened water rewards. Under these conditions, C57BL/6J mice successfully mastered a corner preference task with the reversal and also learned a more difficult time-place task with reversal. However, the rate of responding to sweetened water decreased strongly with increasing task difficulty, indicating that learning challenges and reduced success in obtaining rewards decreased the motivation of the animals to seek sweetened water. While C57BL/6J mice of both sexes showed similar initial taste preferences and learned similarly well in simple learning tasks, the rate of responding to sweetened water and performance dropped more rapidly in male than in female mice in response to increasing learning challenges. Taken together, our data indicate that male mice can have a disadvantage relative to females in mastering difficult, appetitively motivated learning tasks, likely due to sex differences in value-based decision-making.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Anatomy
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
Life Sciences > Cognitive Neuroscience
Life Sciences > Behavioral Neuroscience
Language:English
Date:29 February 2024
Deposited On:12 Apr 2024 12:50
Last Modified:13 Apr 2024 20:00
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5153
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2024.1270159
PubMed ID:38487348
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)