Behavioural brain research

Altered consolidation of extinction-like inhibitory learning in genotype-specific dysfunctional coping fostered by chronic stress in mice.

PMID 27506654


Genetic and stress-related factors interact to foster mental disorders, possibly through dysfunctional learning. In a previous study we reported that a temporary experience of reduced food availability increases forced swim (FS)-induced helplessness tested 14days after a first experience in mice of the standard inbred C57BL/6(B6) strain but reduces it in mice of the genetically unrelated DBA/2J (D2) strain. Because persistence of FS-induced helplessness influences adaptive coping with stress challenge and involve learning processes the present study tested whether the behavioral effects of restricted feeding involved altered consolidation of FS-related learning. First, we demonstrated that restricted feeding does not influence behavior expressed on the first FS experience, supporting a specific effect on persistence rather then development of helplessness. Second, we found that FS-induced c-fos expression in the infralimbic cortex (IL) was selectively enhanced in food-restricted (FR) B6 mice and reduced in FR D2 mice, supporting opposite alterations of consolidation processes involving this brain area. Third, we demonstrated that immediate post-FS inactivation of IL prevents 24h retention of acquired helplessness by continuously free-fed mice of both strains, indicating the requirement of a functioning IL for consolidation of FS-related learning in either mouse strain. Finally, in line with the known role of IL in consolidation of extinction memories, we found that restricted feeding selectively facilitated 24h retention of an acquired extinction in B6 mice whereas impairing it in D2 mice. These findings support the conclusion that an experience of reduced food availability strain-specifically affects persistence of newly acquired passive coping strategies by altering consolidation of extinction-like inhibitory learning.