Corticosterone response to the plus-maze: High correlation with risk assessment in rats and mice

Ethopharmacology Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Leeds, UK.
Physiology & Behavior (Impact Factor: 3.03). 12/1999; 68(1-2):47-53. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-9384(99)00140-7
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Exposure to the elevated plus-maze induces behavioural and physiological effects in rodents consistent with fear/anxiety. Maze-naive animals display high levels of risk assessment towards the open arms, and explore these areas less extensively than other parts of the maze while, immediately following the test, pain latencies, skin conductance levels, and plasma corticosterone titres (CORT) are significantly elevated. Although previous research has suggested a link between the plasma CORT response and open-arm exploration, significant elevations in CORT have also been found with restricted exposure to the closed arms. The present study employed ethological measures in an attempt to further characterise the relationship between behavioural and CORT responses to this widely used animal model of anxiety. Our results confirm that, relative to home-cage controls, 5-min exposure to the plus-maze significantly increases plasma CORT levels in test-naive male Wistar rats and male Swiss-Webster mice. Furthermore, in both species, the CORT response was found to be highly correlated with measures of risk assessment (mice: rs = +0.87; rats: rs = +0.58), but not with measures of open-arm activity (entries, time), general locomotor activity, rearing, or head dipping. Findings are discussed in relation to the functional significance of risk assessment in potentially dangerous situations and the potential involvement of glucocorticoids in this process. All rights reserved.

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    ABSTRACT: The late postnatal period in rats is marked by numerous changes in perceptual and cognitive abilities. As such, age-related variation in cognitive test performance might result in part from disparate sensitivities to environmental factors. To better understand how testing conditions might interact with age, we assessed anxiety behavior on an elevated plus maze (EPM) in juvenile rats around 3 weeks of age under diverse testing conditions. Plasma corticosterone and neuronal activation patterns in the forebrain were examined after maze exposure. We found that anxiety was differentially expressed during different stages of late postnatal development. Bright illumination and morning testing encouraged greatest open arm exploration on the EPM in younger animals, while older rats explored open areas more under dim illumination in the morning compared to bright illumination in the afternoon/evening. Older rats exhibited higher plasma corticosterone levels at baseline compared to younger rats; however, this trend was reversed for post-testing corticosterone. Additionally, post-testing corticosterone levels were inversely related to time of testing. Compared to testing in the morning, EPM exposure in the afternoon/evening elicited greater neuronal Arc expression in the amygdala. Arc expression in the amygdala after morning testing was greater at P22-24 than P17-19. In layer 2/3 of primary visual cortex, Arc expression was elevated in younger animals and age interacted with time of testing to produce opposing effects at P17-19 and P22-24. These data suggest that age-related differences in anxiety-associated behavior during the late postnatal period are due in part to changes in light sensitivity and emergence of a circadian cycle for corticosterone. The findings illustrate that late postnatal behavioral development in rodents is a complex orchestration of changes in neural systems involved in perception, cognition, affect and homeostatic regulation.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 02/2015; 9:31. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00031 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The plus-maze, the light–dark box and the open-field are the main current tests of unconditioned anxiety for mice and rats. Despite their disappointing achievements, they remain as popular as ever and seem to play an important role in an ever-growing demand for behavioral phenotyping and drug screening. Numerous reviews have repeatedly reported their lack of consistency and reliability but they failed to address the core question of whether these tests do provide unequivocal measures of fear-induced anxiety, that these measurements are not confused with measures of fear-induced avoidance or natural preference responses — i.e. discriminant validity. In the present report, I examined numerous issues that undermine the validity of the current tests, and I highlighted various flaws in the aspects of these tests and the methodologies pursued. This report concludes that the evidence in support of the validity of the plus-maze, the light/dark box and the open-field as anxiety tests is poor and methodologically flawed.
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