Anhedonic-like traits and lack of affective deficits in 18-month-old C57BL/6 mice: Implications for modeling elderly depression

Lilly Research Labs/Lilly Corporate Center, Delaware St., Indianapolis 839 S, IN 46225 USA.
Experimental gerontology (Impact Factor: 3.49). 05/2012; 47(8):552-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.exger.2012.04.010
Source: PubMed


The prevalence of depression increases with aging. We hypothesized that like humans, old animals exhibit anhedonic-like behavior, along with signs of behavioral despair. In rodents, anhedonia, a reduced sensitivity to reward, which is listed as a core feature of major depression in the DSM-IVR, can be measured by a decrease in intake of and preference for sweet solutions. Here, sucrose intake, forced swimming, immobility in the modified tail suspension test, novelty exploration, grooming, anxiety and locomotor activity were compared in naïve 3- and 18-month-old male C57BL/6 mice. The absolute amounts and the ratio of consumed 1% sucrose solution to water intake was significantly smaller in 18-month-old mice than in 3-month-old mice. The consumption of 5%-sucrose solution requiring high levels of drinking effort, novelty exploration in two setups and grooming behavior in the splash test were reduced in older animals. Analysis of other behaviors suggested that the above-mentioned signs of anhedonic-like traits were unlikely to be attributable to the potential effect of aging on metabolic needs for water, taste perception, motor capabilities or the induction of essential anxiety and neophobia. A 4-week treatment with the antidepressant imipramine (7mg/kg/day) or dimebon, a compound with suggested neuroprotective proneurogenic properties (1mg/kg/day) restored sucrose intake and preference in 18-month-old mice. Meanwhile, young and old mice showed no differences in the parameters of behavioral despair evaluated in the forced swim and modified tail suspension tests. Thus, the behavioral profile of aged mice parallels that of humans with elderly depression, in whom the symptoms of hedonic deficits typically outweigh affective disturbances. The assessment of anhedonic-like traits with the sucrose preference test in 18-month-old mice will be useful in preclinical studies of elderly depression.

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