Research investigating how control over stressors affects behavior often utilizes freezing and shuttle escape learning as the behavioral endpoints. These endpoints have been argued to reflect anxious or depressed states, but these descriptions are problematic. The present study sought to determine the impact of stressor controllability and the dorsal raphé nucleus (DRN) on sucrose preference and juvenile social exploration, putative measures of anhedonia and anxiety that are commonly used in studies of stress per se. In Experiment 1 rats were exposed to escapable stress (ES) or yoked-inescapable stress (IS) tailshocks. In Experiment 2 ES or IS was given 7 days before all rats received IS. In Experiment 3 the DRN was inactivated during IS by microinjection of 8-OH-DPAT. Sucrose preference and social exploration were tested for several days after stress. A fourth experiment confirmed that juvenile social exploration is sensitive to traditional β-carboline and benzodiazepine manipulations. Both ES and IS reduced sucrose preference, but only IS reduced social exploration. Prior treatment with ES prevented the effect of IS on social exploration but did not prevent the effect of IS on sucrose preference and inactivation of the DRN prevented the effect of IS on social exploration but did not change sucrose preference. The present results indicate that social exploration but not sucrose preference is sensitive to prior stressor controllability, and that DRN activation mediates the effect of IS on social exploration. We argue that DRN-5-HT activation mediates a state of generalized anxiety produced by uncontrollable stress and that juvenile social exploration is a useful behavioral endpoint in stressor controllability studies.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant MH050479.
- Learned helplessness
- Social interaction