Subscribe: Behavioral Neuroscience - Vol 123, Iss 6
Preview: Behavioral Neuroscience - Vol 123, Iss 6

Behavioral Neuroscience - Vol 131, Iss 6

The primary mission of Behavioral Neuroscience is to publish original research papers in the broad field of the biological bases of behavior.

Last Build Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2018 05:00:15 GMT


The dorsomedial striatum mediates Pavlovian appetitive conditioning and food consumption.

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 05:00:00 GMT

The dorsomedial striatum (DMS) is an important sensorimotor region mediating the acquisition of goal-directed instrumental reward learning and behavioral flexibility. However, whether the DMS also regulates Pavlovian cue–food learning is less clear. The current study used excitotoxic lesions to determine whether the DMS is critical in Pavlovian appetitive learning and behavior, using discriminative conditioning and reversal paradigms. The results showed that DMS lesions transiently retarded cue–food learning and subsequent reversal of this learning. Rats with DMS lesions selectively attenuated responding to a food cue but not a control cue, early in training, suggesting the DMS is involved when initial associations are formed. Similarly, initial reversal learning was attenuated in rats with DMS lesions, which suggests impaired flexibility to adjust behavior when the cue meaning is reversed. We also examined the effect of DMS lesions on food intake during tests with access to a highly palatable food along with standard chow diet. Rats with DMS lesions showed an altered pattern of intake, with an initial reduction in high-fat diet followed by an increase in chow consumption. These results demonstrate that the DMS has a role in mediating cue–food learning and its subsequent reversal, as well as changes in food intake when a choice is provided. Together, these results demonstrate the DMS is involved in reward associative learning and reward consumption, when behavioral flexibility is needed to adjust responding or consumption to match the current value. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Brief optogenetic inhibition of rat lateral or ventrolateral periaqueductal gray augments the acquisition of Pavlovian fear conditioning.

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 04:00:00 GMT

The midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG) coordinates the expression and topography of defensive behaviors to threat and also plays an important role in Pavlovian fear learning itself. Whereas the role of PAG in the expression of defensive behavior is well understood, the relationship between the activity of PAG neurons and fear learning, the exact timing of PAG contributions to learning during the conditioning trial, and the contributions of different PAG columns to fear learning are poorly understood. We assessed the effects of optogenetic inhibition of lateral (LPAG) and ventrolateral PAG (VLPAG) neurons on fear learning. Using adenoassociated viral vectors expressing halorhodopsin, we show that brief optogenetic inhibition of LPAG or VLPAG during delivery of the shock unconditioned stimulus (US) augments acquisition of contextual or cued fear conditioning, and we also show that this inhibition augments postencounter defensive responses to a nonnoxious threat. Taken together, these results show that LPAG and VLPAG serve a key role in the regulation of Pavlovian fear learning at the time of US delivery. These findings provide strong support for existing models that state that LPAG and VLPAG contribute to a fear prediction error signal determining variations in the effectiveness of the aversive US in supporting learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Running wheel exercise reduces renewal of extinguished instrumental behavior and alters medial prefrontal cortex neurons in adolescent, but not adult, rats.

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 04:00:00 GMT

Physical exercise in rodents has repeatedly been shown to trigger positive effects on brain function, including increased neurotrophic factors and improved learning and memory. However, most of this work has focused on the adult hippocampus and hippocampal-dependent behavior. Here we examined the effect of running wheel exercise in adult and adolescent male rats on ABA renewal of extinguished instrumental conditioning, in which acquisition occurs in Context A, extinction in Context B, and renewal testing occurs back in Context A. In the first experiment, rats were given unlocked (exercise) or locked (no exercise) running wheel access in their home cages beginning at postnatal Day 30 (adolescent) or postnatal Day 56 (adult). Rats underwent lever-press acquisition in Context A and extinction in Context B. ABA renewal testing took place 2 weeks after the start of running wheel exposure. Nonexercising adolescent rats showed greater ABA renewal than nonexercising adult rats and exercise reduced ABA renewal in adolescents but not adults. ABA renewal depends on medial prefrontal cortex function. In a second experiment, we compared adolescent and adult apical dendrite branch length, branch number, and spine density of medial prefrontal cortex pyramidal neurons after 2 weeks of unlocked or locked running wheel access. The results revealed a higher density of dendritic spines and a lower dendritic branch length in adolescent exercisers than adolescent nonexercisers. Adult exercisers and nonexercisers did not differ. Collectively, these experiments suggest that exercise may have particularly strong effects on adolescent medial prefrontal cortex function and structure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

The application of a rodent-based Morris water maze (MWM) protocol to an investigation of age-related differences in human spatial learning.

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 05:00:00 GMT

The current study applied a rodent-based Morris water maze (MWM) protocol to an investigation of search performance differences between young and older adult humans. To investigate whether similar age-related decline in search performance could be seen in humans based on the rodent-based protocol, we implemented a virtual MWM (vMWM) that has characteristics similar to those of the MWM used in previous studies of spatial learning in mice. Through the use of a proximity to platform measure, robust differences were found between healthy young and older adults in search performance. After dividing older adults into good and poor performers based on a median split of their corrected cumulative proximity values, the age effects in place learning were found to be largely related to search performance differences between the young and poor-performing older adults. When compared with the young, poor-performing older adults exhibited significantly higher proximity values in 83% of 24 place trials and overall in the probe trials that assessed spatial learning in the absence of the hidden platform. In contrast, good-performing older adults exhibited patterns of search performance that were comparable with that of the younger adults in most place and probe trials. Taken together, our findings suggest that the low search accuracy in poor-performing older adults stemmed from potential differences in strategy selection, differences in assumptions or expectations of task demands, as well as possible underlying functional and/or structural changes in the brain regions involved in vMWM search performance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Across sex and age: Learning and memory and patterns of avian hippocampal gene expression.

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 05:00:00 GMT

Age-related decrements in cognitive ability have been proposed to stem from deteriorating function of the hippocampus. Many birds are long lived, especially for their relatively small body mass and elevated metabolism, making them a unique model of resilience to aging. Nevertheless, little is known about avian age-related changes in cognition and hippocampal physiology. We studied spatial cognition and hippocampal expression of the age-related gene, Apolipoprotein D (ApoD), and the immediate early gene Egr-1 in zebra finches at various developmental time points. In a first experiment, middle-aged adult males outperformed middle-aged females in learning correct food locations in a four-arm maze, but all birds remembered the task equally well after a 5- or 10-day delay. In a second experiment comparing young and old birds, aged birds showed minimal evidence for deterioration in spatial cognition or motivation relative to young birds, except that aged females showed less rapid gains in accuracy during spatial learning than young females. These findings indicate that sex differences in hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and decline with age are phylogenetically conserved. With respect to hippocampal gene expression, adult females expressed Egr-1 at significantly greater levels than males after memory retrieval, perhaps reflecting a neurobiological compensation. Contrary to mammals, ApoD expression was elevated in young zebra finches compared with aged birds. This may explain the near absence of decrements in spatial memory due to age, possibly indicating an alternative mechanism of managing oxidative stress in aged birds. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Effect of social isolation on anxiety-related behaviors, cortisol, and monoamines in adult zebrafish.

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 05:00:00 GMT

Social isolation can be used to study behavioral, neural, and hormonal mechanisms that regulate interactions in social animals. Although isolation effects have been reported in social mammals and various fish species, systematic studies with isolated zebrafish are rare. Here, the authors examined behavior (social and nonsocial), physiological stress (whole-body cortisol levels), and neurochemicals (serotonin, dopamine, and their metabolites), following acute and chronic social isolation in adult zebrafish. To observe how isolated fish respond behaviorally to social stimuli, they exposed zebrafish to live conspecifics or animated images after acute (24 hr) or chronic (6 months) social isolation. The authors observed that isolation did not affect locomotor activity, but acute isolation had weak nonsignificant anxiogenic effects in adult zebrafish. They also found that all isolated fish responded to both live and animated social stimuli, and the stress hormone, cortisol was lower in chronically isolated fish. Finally, neurochemical analyses showed that serotonin levels increased when fish were exposed to social stimulus after acute isolation, but its metabolite 5HIAA decreased in response to social stimulus following both acute and chronic isolation. Levels of both dopamine and its metabolite DOPAC were also reduced in fish exposed to social stimulus after acute and chronic isolation. Overall, these results show that isolation in zebrafish is an effective tool to study fundamental mechanisms controlling social interaction at behavioral and physiological levels. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)