Patients suffering from depression-associated cognitive impairments often recover incompletely after remission from the core symptoms of depression (lack of energy, depressed mood and anhedonia). This study aimed to set the basis for clinically relevant testing of cognitive impairments in a preclinical model of depression. Hence, we used the chronic mild stress (CMS) model of depression, which provokes the core symptom of anhedonia in a fraction of the stress exposed animals, while others remain resilient, and assessed the entire CMS groups' cognitive performance on the touchscreen operant platform. Specifically, we applied the pairwise discrimination (PD) and reversal task including a retention phase on Wistar and Long Evans controls and CMS exposed Long Evans rats. We observed differences between the albino Wistar and the pigmented Long Evans strain regarding performance in the PD and reversal task as well as in memory consolidation. CMS exposure did not alter learning and memory in the PD and reversal task, even though it altered affective behaviours in the elevated plus-maze and open field test. This is likely due to the heterogeneity of the CMS group, in which stress exposure elicited the expected range of phenotypes from anhedonic-like to resilient shown with the sucrose consumption test. Thus, our study suggests that pigmented rat strains, such as Long Evans, are superior to albino rats in the vision-based touchscreen studies. Furthermore, we propose investigation of the CMS subgroups in more complex, hippocampus-dependent tasks to refine a translational preclinical model of depression-induced cognitive impairments. Hence, this study increased awareness of strain-specific differences in touchscreen performance and added to the literature regarding the sensitivity of the PD and reversal task to stress-induced cognitive alterations.
- Journal Article