A translational rodent assay of affective biases in depression and antidepressant therapy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


The subjective measures used to study mood disorders in humans cannot be replicated in animals; however the increasing application of objective, neuropsychological methods provides opportunities to develop translational animal tasks. Here we describe a novel behavioral approach which has enabled us to investigate similar affective biases in rodents. In our affective bias test (ABT), rats encounter two independent positive experiences - the association between food reward and specific digging substrate - during discrimination learning sessions. These are performed on separate days under either neutral conditions or during a pharmacological or affective state manipulation. Affective bias is then quantified using a preference test where both previously rewarded substrates are presented together and the rat's choices recorded. The absolute value of the experience is kept consistent and all other factors are counterbalanced so that any bias at recall can be attributed to treatment. Replicating previous findings from studies in healthy volunteers, we observe significant positive affective biases following acute treatment with typical (fluoxetine, citalopram, reboxetine, venlafaxine, clomipramine) and atypical antidepressants (agomelatine, mirtazapine), and significant negative affective biases following treatment with drugs associated with inducing negative affective states in humans (FG7142, rimonabant, 13-cis retinoic acid). We also observed that acute psychosocial stress and environmental enrichment induce significant negative and positive affective biases respectively, and provide evidence that these affective biases involve memory consolidation. The positive and negative affective biases induced in our test also mirror the antidepressant and pro-depressant effects of these drugs in patients suggesting our test has both translational and predictive validity. Our results suggest that cognitive affective biases could contribute to drug or stress-induced mood changes in people and support the hypothesis that a cognitive neuropsychological mechanism contributes to antidepressant drug efficacy.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 15 March 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.69.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol

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