Repeated social stress increases reward salience and impairs encoding of prediction by rat locus coeruleus neurons.


Stress is implicated in psychopathology characterized by cognitive dysfunction. Cognitive responses to stress are regulated by the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system. As social stress is a prevalent human stressor, this study determined the impact of repeated social stress on the relationship between LC neuronal activity and behavior during the performance of cognitive tasks. Social stress-exposed rats performed better at intradimensional set shifting (IDS) and made fewer perseverative errors during reversal learning (REV). LC neurons of control rats were task responsive, being activated after the choice and before reward. Social stress shifted LC neuronal activity from being task responsive to being reward responsive during IDS and REV. LC neurons of stressed rats were activated by reward and tonically inhibited by reward omission with incorrect choices. In contrast, LC neurons of stress-naive rats were only tonically inhibited by reward omission. Reward-related LC activation in stressed rats was unrelated to predictability because it did not habituate as learning progressed. The findings suggest that social stress history increases reward salience and impairs processes that compute predictability for LC neurons. These effects of social stress on LC neuronal activity could facilitate learning as indicated by improved performance in stressed rats. However, the ability of social stress history to enhance responses to behavioral outcomes may have a role in the association between stress and addictive behaviors. In addition, magnified fluctuations in LC activity in response to opposing behavioral consequences may underlie volatile changes in emotional arousal that characterize post-traumatic stress disorder.

DOI: 10.1038/npp.2014.200

Cite this paper

@article{Chaijale2015RepeatedSS, title={Repeated social stress increases reward salience and impairs encoding of prediction by rat locus coeruleus neurons.}, author={Nayla N Chaijale and Kevin Snyder and Jay Arner and Andre L Curtis and Rita J Valentino}, journal={Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology}, year={2015}, volume={40 2}, pages={513-23} }