A critical review of chronic stress effects on spatial learning and memory

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Abstract

The purpose of this review is to evaluate the effects of chronic stress on hippocampal-dependent function, based primarily upon studies using young, adult male rodents and spatial navigation tasks. Despite this restriction, variability amongst the findings was evident and how or even whether chronic stress influenced spatial ability depended upon the type of task, the dependent variable measured and how the task was implemented, the type and duration of the stressors, housing conditions of the animals that include accessibility to food and cage mates, and duration from the end of the stress to the start of behavioral assessment. Nonetheless, patterns emerged as follows: For spatial memory, chronic stress impairs spatial reference memory and has transient effects on spatial working memory. For spatial learning, however, chronic stress effects appear to be task-specific: chronic stress impairs spatial learning on appetitively motivated tasks, such as the radial arm maze or holeboard, tasks that evoke relatively mild to low arousal components from fear. But under testing conditions that evoke moderate to strong arousal components from fear, such as during radial arm water maze testing, chronic stress appears to have minimal impairing effects or may even facilitate spatial learning. Chronic stress clearly impacts nearly every brain region and thus, how chronic stress alters hippocampal spatial ability likely depends upon the engagement of other brain structures during behavioral training and testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-755
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Volume34
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

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Keywords

  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Reference memory
  • Spatial
  • Stress
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry

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