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Behav Brain Res. 2020 Jan 13;377:112188. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.112188. Epub 2019 Aug 29.

Inter-individual and inter-strain differences in cognitive and social abilities of Dark Agouti and Wistar Han rats.

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Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany.
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, Germany.
Department of Pharmacology, Innsbruck Medical University, Innsbruck, Austria.
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, Germany; Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St. Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany; Charité University Medicine, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address:


Healthy animals displaying extreme behaviours that resemble human psychiatric symptoms are relevant models to study the natural psychobiological processes of maladapted behaviours. Using a Rat Gambling Task, healthy individuals spontaneously making poor decisions (PDMs) were found to co-express a combination of other cognitive and reward-based characteristics similar to symptoms observed in human patients with impulse-control disorders. The main goals of this study were to 1) confirm the existence of PDMs and their unique behavioural phenotypes in Dark Agouti (DA) and Wistar Han (WH) rats, 2) to extend the behavioural profile of the PDMs to probability-based decision-making and social behaviours and 3) to extract key discriminative traits between DA and WH strains, relevant for biomedical research. We have compared cognitive abilities, natural behaviours and physiological responses in DA and WH rats at the strain and at the individual level. Here we found that the naturally occurring PDM's profile was consistent between both rat lines. Then, although the PDM individuals did not take more risks in probability discounting task, they seemed to be of higher social ranks. Finally and despite their similarities in performance, WH and DA lines differed in degree of reward sensitivity, impulsivity, locomotor activity and open space-occupation. The reproducibility and conservation of the complex phenotypes of PDMs and GDMs (good decision makers) in these two genetically different strains support their translational potential. Both strains, present large phenotypic variation in behaviours pertinent for the study of the underlying mechanisms of poor decision making and associated disorders.


Dark Agouti; Decision-making; Inter-individual differences; Rat; Social; Wistar Han


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