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

Behavioral Neuroscience - Vol 130, Iss 5

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: Fri, 28 Oct 2016 13:00:34 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Blocking serotonin but not dopamine reuptake alters neural processing during perceptual decision making.


Dopamine and serotonin have opponent interactions on aspects of impulsivity. Therefore we wanted to test the hypothesis that dopamine and serotonin would have opposing effects on speed–accuracy trade offs in a perceptual decision making task. Unlike other behavioral measures of impulsivity, perceptual decision making allows us to determine whether decreasing premature responses, often interpreted as decreased impulsivity, corresponds to increased behavioral performance. We administered GBR-12909 (a dopamine transporter blocker), escitalopram (a serotonin transporter blocker), or saline in separate sessions to 3 rhesus macaques. We found that animals had slower reaction times (RTs) on escitalopram than on GBR-12909 or saline. However, they were also least accurate on escitalopram. Animals were faster, although nonsignificantly, on GBR than saline and had equivalent accuracy. Administration of GBR-12909 did cause animals to be faster in error trials than correct trials. Therefore, from the point of view of RTs the animals were less impulsive on escitalopram. However, the decreased accuracy of the monkeys shows that they were not able to make use of their slower response times to make more accurate decisions. Therefore, impulsivity was reduced on escitalopram, but at the expense of a slower information-processing rate in the perceptual inference task. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The role of ΔfosB in the medial preoptic area: Differential effects of mating and cocaine history.


The transcription factor deltaFosB (ΔFosB) is induced in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) by repeated exposure to drugs of abuse and natural rewards. Less is known about its role in other brain areas. Here, we compared the effects of mating versus cocaine history on induction of ΔFosB in the medial preoptic area (MPOA), an integral site for reproductive behavior, and in the NAc. ΔFosB immunoreactivity (ir) was increased in the MPOA of previously naïve and experienced male rats that mated the day before euthanasia, compared to unmated controls and experienced males with recent mating abstinence. Western immunoblots confirmed that the 35–37-kDa isoform of ΔFosB was increased more in recently mated males. Conversely, previous plus recent cocaine did not increase ΔFosB-ir in the MPOA, despite an increase in the NAc. Next, a viral vector expressing ΔFosB, its dominant negative antagonist ΔJunD, or green fluorescent protein (GFP) control, were microinjected bilaterally into the MPOA. ΔFosB overexpression impaired copulation and promoted female-directed aggression, compared to ΔJunD and control males. These data suggest that ΔFosB in the mPOA is expressed in an experience-dependent manner and affects systems that coordinate mating and aggression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Sex and pairing status explain variations in the activation of nonapeptide receptors in song and motivation regions.


The nonapeptides oxytocin and vasopressin have been implicated in a variety of social behaviors. In zebra finches, oxytocin antagonists decrease pairing in both sexes, and pairing, in turn, increases expression of both mesotocin (the avian homologue of oxytocin) and vasotocin (the avian homologue of vasopressin). Increases in mesotocin and vasotocin mRNA are correlated with the amount of directed singing by males. Thus, in the present study, we examined the hypothesis that activation of cells containing nonapeptide receptors in song-related regions (ventral tegmental area, lateral septum, and medial preoptic nucleus) would also be correlated with directed singing in males. To rule out the possibility that these regions are involved in general pairing motivation, we also included females as subjects. In the ventral tegmental area, males had higher ZENK and V1aR than females and paired animals (regardless of sex) had higher ZENK and V1aR than did unpaired animals. In the medial preoptic nucleus, paired animals had higher ZENK than did unpaired animals, and there were no sex or pairing effects in the lateral septum. Only ZENK + V1aR in the medial preoptic nucleus was correlated with singing in males. These findings suggest that pairing is associated activation of nonapeptide receptors in the ventral tegmental area and the medial preoptic nucleus, but there is only partial evidence that courtship singing accounts for these findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Sexual experience modulates partner preference and mPOA nitric oxide synthase in female rats.


Sexually experienced female rats return to the male more quickly after intromissions, exhibit shorter interintromission intervals, and spend more time with the male rat during a test of paced mating behavior in comparison to naïve rats. The present study tested whether these changes reflect heightened sexual motivation independent of receipt of vaginocervical stimulation and/or neurochemical changes in the medial preoptic area (mPOA). Ovariectomized, female rats were given estradiol benzoate and progesterone, and then received either 6 paced mating encounters (experienced) or 6 control exposures to an empty paced mating arena (naïve). Experienced and naïve rats received a no-contact partner preference test under oil vehicle and then under hormone on a different day. Hormonal status and sexual experience led to significantly higher preference for the male. Brains were collected 1 hr after both experienced and naïve rats received paced mating to compare mPOA levels of Fos, a marker of neural activity, in response to copulation and nitric oxide synthase (NOS), the enzyme responsible for production of nitric oxide (NO). Expression of NOS was higher in experienced relative to naïve rats, whereas Fos was comparable between the groups. The data are consistent with the idea that both sexual motivation and changes to the mPOA contribute to the shift in paced mating behavior induced by sexual experience. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Natural variation in maternal sensitivity is reflected in maternal brain responses to infant stimuli.


Increasing evidence suggests that discrete neural networks that mediate emotion processing are activated when mothers respond to infant’s images or cries. Accumulating data also indicate that natural variation in maternal caregiving behavior is related to maternal oxytocin (OT) levels. However, brain activation to infant cues has not been studied comparing mothers at disparate ends of the “maternal sensitivity” spectrum. Based on observed mother–infant play interaction at 4–6 months postpartum in 80 antenatally recruited mothers, 15 mothers with the highest sensitivity (HSMs) and 15 mothers with the lowest sensitivity (LSMs) were followed at 7–9 months using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine brain responses to viewing videos of their “own” versus an “unknown” infant in 3 affect states (neutral, happy, and sad). Plasma OT measurements were taken from mothers following play interactions with their infant. Compared with LSMs, HSMs showed significantly greater brain activation in right superior temporal gyrus (STG) in response to own versus unknown neutral infant and to own happy versus neutral control. Changes in brain activation were significantly negatively correlated with plasma OT responses in HSMs mothers. Conversely, compared with HSMs, LSMs showed no significant activation difference in response to own infant separately or in contrast to unknown infant. Activation of STG may index sensitive maternal response to own infant stimuli. Sensitive parenting may have its unique profile in relation to brain responses which can act as biomarkers for future intervention studies that enhance sensitivity of maternal care. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

A mother’s past can predict her offspring’s future: Previous maternal separation leads to the early emergence of adult-like fear behavior in subsequent male infant rat offspring.


Recent evidence has shown that pups exposed to maternal separation exhibit profound changes in their emotional development, for example, early emergence of adult-like fear retention and fear inhibition (Callaghan & Richardson, 2011; Callaghan & Richardson, 2012). Numerous studies have shown that maternal separation is also a significant stressor for the mother. However, no studies have examined how a mother’s prior parenting experience affects emotion development of pups in her subsequent litters. In this study female rats were bred and were then separated from their pups (maternal separation, MS) or remained with their pups (standard rearing, SR). After those pups were weaned, females were bred again with all pups from the subsequent litters being standard reared. Hence, these subsequent litter pups had mothers that were either previously separated (MSSUB) or not (SRSUB) from their prior litter. Those pups underwent fear conditioning at postnatal Day 17 and tested for fear retention, or had their fear extinguished and then tested for the renewal effect. The results show that the MSSUB infants respond similarly to infants that had been directly exposed to MS. That is, the MSSUB infants exhibited better retention of fear and more relapse after extinction compared with SRSUB infants. Further experiments demonstrated that MSSUB rats were not more anxious than SRSUB infants. Taken together, these experiments are the first to demonstrate that infant offspring exhibit atypical emotional development of fear conditioning (but not anxiety) as a consequence of their mother’s prior exposure to stress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Enhanced startle responsivity 24 hours after acute stress exposure.


Cortisol release in a stressful situation can be beneficial for memory encoding and memory consolidation. Stimuli, such as odors, related to the stressful episode may successfully cue memory contents of the stress experience. The current investigation aimed at testing the potency of stress to influence startle responsivity 24 hr later and to implicitly reactivate emotional memory traces triggered by an odor involved. Participants were assigned to either a stress (Trier Social Stress Test [TSST]) or control (friendly TSST [f-TSST]) condition featuring an ambient odor. On the next day, participants underwent an auditory startle paradigm while their eyeblink reflex was recorded by an electrooculogram. Three different olfactory stimuli were delivered, one being the target odor presented the day before. Additionally, negative, positive, and pictures of the committee members were included for comparing general startle responsivity and fear-potentiated startle. Participants of the stress group demonstrated an enhanced startle response across all stimuli compared to participants of the control group. There were no specific effects with regard to the target odor. The typical fear-potentiated startle response occurred. Stressed participants tended to rate the target odor more aversive than control participants. Odor recognition memory did not differ between the groups, suggesting an implicit effect on odor valence. Our results show that acute stress exposure enhances startle responsivity 24 hr later. This effect might be caused by a shift of amygdala function causing heightened sensitivity, but lower levels of specificity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Contrasting emotion processing and executive functioning in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder (BD) are highly comorbid and share executive function and emotion processing deficits, complicating diagnoses despite distinct clinical features. We compared performance on an oculomotor task that assessed these processes to capture subtle differences between ADHD and BD. The interaction between emotion processing and executive functioning may be informative because, although these processes overlap anatomically, certain regions that are compromised in each network are different in ADHD and BD. Adults, aged 18–62, with ADHD (n = 22), BD (n = 20), and healthy controls (n = 21) performed an interleaved pro- and antisaccade task (looking toward vs. looking away from a visual target, respectively). Task irrelevant emotional faces (fear, happy, sad, neutral) were presented on a subset of trials either before or with the target. The ADHD group made more direction errors (looked in the wrong direction) than controls. Presentation of negatively valenced (fear, sad) and ambiguous (neutral) emotional faces increased saccadic reaction time in BD only compared to controls, whereas longer presentation of sad faces modestly increased group differences. The antisaccade task differentiated ADHD from controls. Emotional processing further impaired processing speed in BD. We propose that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is critical in both processing systems, but the inhibitory signal this region generates is impacted by dysfunction in the emotion processing network, possibly at the orbitofrontal cortex, in BD. These results suggest there are differences in how emotion processing and executive functioning interact, which could be utilized to improve diagnostic specificity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)