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Neuroscience. 2011 Jun 16;184:97-106. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.02.025. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Decision-making performance is related to levels of anxiety and differential recruitment of frontostriatal areas in male rats.

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Department of Animals in Science and Society, Division of Behavioural Neuroscience, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


In humans, high levels of anxiety are associated with poor performance in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). The IGT measures decision-making under conditions of uncertainty. In this study, we investigated the association between anxiety and decision-making in rats. Rats were screened for anxiety on the elevated plus maze (EPM) and subsequently tested in a rat analogue of the IGT (r-IGT). We explored the role of frontostriatal areas related to r-IGT performance using c-fos immunohistochemistry following the last training-session. High levels of anxiety were associated with poor r-IGT performance: high anxious rats made fewer choices for the advantageous option and collected fewer sucrose pellets in the r-IGT than low anxious rats. Analysis of win-stay/lose-shift behaviour of choices for the advantageous option revealed that good performing-low anxious subjects showed an increase in win-stays and a decrease in lose-shifts across trial blocks while poor performing-high anxious subjects did not. Furthermore, decision-making performance and, indirectly, anxiety levels were related to neural activity in parts of the medial prefrontal cortex, that is prelimbic and infralimbic cortex, and in parts of the striatum, that is nucleus accumbens shell and core. These data suggest a similar frontostriatal circuitry underlying affective decision-making in humans and rats.

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