Effects of pro-depressant and immunomodulatory drugs on biases in decision-making in the rat judgement bias task

C A Hales, J M Bartlett, R Arban, B Hengerer, E S Robinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Studies in human and non‐human species suggest that decision‐making behaviour can be biased by affective state, also termed an affective bias. To study these behaviours in non‐human species, judgement bias tasks have been developed. Animals are trained to associate specific cues (tones) with a positive or negative/less positive outcome. Animals are then presented with intermediate ambiguous cues and affective biases quantified by observing whether animals make more optimistic or more pessimistic choices. Here we use a high versus low reward judgement bias task and test whether pharmacologically distinct compounds, which induce negative biases in learning and memory, have similar effects on decision‐making: tetrabenazine (0.0‐1.0mg/kg), retinoic acid (0.0‐ 10.0mg/kg) and rimonabant (0.0‐10.0mg/kg). We also tested immunomodulatory compounds: interferon‐α (0‐ 100units/kg), lipopolysaccharide (0.0‐10.0μg/kg) and corticosterone (0.0‐10.0mg/kg). We observed no specific effects in the judgement bias task with any acute treatment except corticosterone which induced a negative bias. We have previously observed a similar lack of effect with acute but not chronic psychosocial stress and so next tested decision‐making behaviour following chronic interferon‐alpha. Animals developed a negative bias which was sustained even after treatment was ended. These data suggest that decision‐making behaviour in the task is sensitive to chronic but not acute effects of most pro‐depressant drugs or immunomodulators, but exogenous administration of acute corticosterone induces pessimistic behaviour. This work supports our hypothesis that biases in decision‐making develop over a different temporal scale to those seen with learning and memory which may be relevant in the development and perpetuation of mood disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Early online date27 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by an Industrial Partnership Award awarded by BBSRC in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim (Grant no: BB/N015762/1) and carried out with intellectual support from Boehringer Ingelheim.

Funding Information:
ESJR has current or previously obtained research grant funding through PhD studentships, collaborative grants, and contract research from Boehringer Ingelheim, Compass Pathways, Eli Lilly, MSD, Pfizer, and Small Pharma. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience published by Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • major depressive disorder
  • cognition
  • emotion
  • animal model
  • neuropsychological


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