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A shortened protocol for assessing cognitive bias in rats

Brydges, Nichola and Hall, Lynsey 2017. A shortened protocol for assessing cognitive bias in rats. Journal of Neuroscience Methods 286 , pp. 1-5. 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.05.015

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Reliable measurement of affective state in animals is a significant goal of animal welfare. Such measurements would also improve the validity of pre-clinical mental health research which relies on animal models. However, at present, affective states in animals are inaccessible to direct measurement. In humans, changes in cognitive processing can give reliable indications of emotional state. Therefore, similar techniques are increasingly being used to gain proxy measures of affective states in animals. In particular, the ‘cognitive bias’ assay has gained popularity in recent years. Major disadvantages of this technique include length of time taken for animals to acquire the task (typically several weeks), negative experiences associated with task training, and issues of motivation. New method Here we present a shortened cognitive bias protocol using only positive reinforcers which must actively be responded to. Results The protocol took an average of 4 days to complete, and produced similar results to previous, longer methods (minimum 30 days). Specifically, rats housed in standard laboratory conditions demonstrated negative cognitive biases when presented with ambiguous stimuli, and took longer to make a decision when faced with an ambiguous stimulus. Comparison with existing methods Compared to previous methods, this protocol is significantly shorter (average 4 days vs. minimum 30 days), utilises only positive reinforcers to avoid inducing negative affective states, and requires active responses to all cues, avoiding potential confounds of motivational state. Conclusions We have successfully developed a shortened cognitive bias protocol, suitable for use with laboratory rats. Keywords Cognitive bias; Emotion; Affect; Rat; Protocol

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cognitive bias; Emotion; Affect; Rat; Protocol
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0165-0270
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: 9 May 2017
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 07:35

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