Spatial learning in the genetically heterogeneous NIH-HS rat stock and RLA-I/RHA-I rats: Revisiting the relationship with unconditioned and conditioned anxiety

Esther Martínez-Membrives, Regina López-Aumatell, Gloria Blázquez, Toni Cañete, Adolf Tobeña, Alberto Fernández-Teruel

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10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2015 Elsevier Inc. To characterize learning/memory profiles for the first time in the genetically heterogeneous NIH-HS rat stock, and to examine whether these are associated with anxiety, we evaluated NIH-HS rats for spatial learning/memory in the Morris water maze (MWM) and in the following anxiety/fear tests: the elevated zero-maze (ZM; unconditioned anxiety), a context-conditioned fear test and the acquisition of two-way active avoidance (conditioned anxiety). NIH-HS rats were compared with the Roman High- (RHA-I) and Low-Avoidance (RLA-I) rat strains, given the well-known differences between the Roman strains/lines in anxiety-related behavior and in spatial learning/memory. The results show that: (i) As expected, RLA-I rats were more anxious in the ZM test, displayed more frequent context-conditioned freezing episodes and fewer avoidances than RHA-I rats. (ii) Scores of NIH-HS rats in these tests/tasks mostly fell in between those of the Roman rat strains, and were usually closer to the values of the RLA-I strain. (iii) Pigmented NIH-HS (only a small part of NIH-HS rats were albino) rats were the best spatial learners and displayed better spatial memory than the other three (RHA-I, RLA-I and NIH-HS albino) groups. (iv) Albino NIH-HS and RLA-I rats also showed better learning/memory than the RHA-I strain. (v) Within the NIH-HS stock, the most anxious rats in the ZM test presented the best learning and/or memory efficiency (regardless of pigmentation). In summary, NIH-HS rats display a high performance in spatial learning/memory tasks and a passive coping strategy when facing conditioned conflict situations. In addition, unconditioned anxiety in NIH-HS rats predicts better spatial learning/memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-25
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Volume144
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2015

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Genetically heterogeneous rats
  • Memory
  • Pigmentation
  • Roman rat strains
  • Spatial learning

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