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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013 Apr;226(3):601-13. doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2932-5. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Investigating the psychopharmacology of cognitive affective bias in rats using an affective tone discrimination task.

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  • 1School of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol, Medical Sciences Building, University Walk, Bristol, BS8 1TD, UK.



Affective states are known to influence behaviour in humans resulting in cognitive affective biases, which may play an important role in the development and treatment of mood disorders. Similar biases have recently been shown in animals, including the rat, providing an opportunity to investigate these processes in non-human species.


This study sought to investigate the psychopharmacology of cognitive affective bias in rats using systemic treatments with anxiolytic (diazepam) and antidepressant drugs (reboxetine or fluoxetine).


Lister hooded rats were trained to discriminate two distinct tones and respond on the appropriate lever to either obtain reward (food) or avoid punishment (mild foot shock). Cognitive affective bias, following acute or chronic drug treatment, was investigated using test sessions where both reference tones and intermediate ambiguous tones were included.


Rats exhibited a negative judgement bias under vehicle conditions which was not significantly attenuated by any of the acute drug treatments, diazepam (0.3, 1.0 mg/kg), reboxetine (0.3-3.0 mg/kg) or fluoxetine 0.1-1.0 mg/kg). Acute reboxetine induced a significant and dose-dependent decrease in the anticipation of reward. Chronic treatment with fluoxetine tended to reduce the negative bias observed in the rats after 1 week of treatment although no significant main effect of treatment was observed.


The results from these initial psychopharmacological studies show that drug treatments can differentially affect motivation to respond to cues associated with reward versus punishment. Our data also suggest that cognitive affective bias, quantified using this method, may be sensitive to chronic but not acute antidepressant treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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