Corticosterone impairs flexible adjustment of spatial navigation in an associative place-reward learning task

Silviu I Rusu, Jan V Lankelma, Jadin C Jackson, Laura A Van Mourik-Donga, Marian Joëls, Cyriel M A Pennartz

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


Cognitive challenges are often accompanied by a discharge of stress hormones, which in turn modulate multiple brain areas. Among these, the medial temporal lobe and the prefrontal cortex are critically involved in high-order cognitive functions such as learning, memory, and decision-making. Previous studies assessing the effects of corticosterone on spatial memory found an increase or a decrease in performance depending on the timing of stress hormone discharge relative to the behavioral task. Most of these studies, however, made use of aversively motivated behaviors, whereas less is known about corticosteroid effects on flexible learning during reward-driven spatial navigation. To study how corticosterone modulates flexible spatial learning, we tested rats on a place-reward association task where hormone treatment was administered immediately after a session presenting a change in reward locations. The corticosterone-treated group showed delayed learning during the initial sessions and suboptimal memory consolidation throughout testing. Repeated training on the novel reward positions improved performance and eliminated differences from the control group. We conclude that a marked increase in plasma corticosterone levels immediately after training impairs the flexible formation of new place-reward associations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-364
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Animals
  • Cognition/drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical/drug effects
  • Corticosterone/adverse effects
  • Male
  • Maze Learning/drug effects
  • Memory Consolidation/drug effects
  • Prefrontal Cortex/drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reward
  • Spatial Learning/drug effects
  • Spatial Memory/drug effects
  • Spatial Navigation/drug effects
  • Temporal Lobe/drug effects

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Corticosterone impairs flexible adjustment of spatial navigation in an associative place-reward learning task'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this