Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Impact of Anxiety Profiles on Cognitive Performance in BALB/c and 129P2 Mice

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Impact of Anxiety Profiles on Cognitive Performance in BALB/c and 129P2 Mice

Article excerpt

Published online: 4 July 2012

© The Author(s) 2012. This article is published with open access at

Abstract It has been suggested over the decades that dysfunctional anxiety may be caused by distinct alterations in cognitive processing. To learn more about the relation between anxiety and cognitive functioning, two mouse strains that display either adaptive (BALB/c) or nonadaptive (129P2) anxiety, as reflected by their ability to habituate when repeatedly exposed to a novel environment, were tested for their cognitive performance in the modified hole board (mHB) task. In general, both strains showed successful acquisition of the task. The initially more anxious BALB/c mice revealed rapid habituation to the test setup, followed by decreased long-term and short-term memory errors across the experimental period and fast relearning after reversal of the task. By contrast, the nonadaptive 129P2 mice made more short-term memory errors and performed worse than the BALB/c animals after reversal of the test. The results confirm the proposed interaction of anxiety and cognition: In BALB/c mice, adaptive characteristics of anxiety were paralleled by more successful cognitive performance, while in 129P2 mice nonadaptive anxiety-related behaviour was accompanied by a higher level of short-term memory errors and less cognitive flexibility. Moreover, these results support our hypothesis that the nonadaptive anxiety phenotype in 129P2 mice may be the result of impaired cognitive control of emotional processes, resulting in impaired behavioural flexibility, for example in response to novelty.

Keywords Cognition . Anxiety . Behaviour . 129P2 mice . BALB/c mice . Habituation

Anxiety is a fundamental emotional response to real or potentially threatening stimuli that is accompanied by behavioural, neurological, and physiological responses (Livesey, 1986). Emerging evidence has shown that anxiety and cognition are closely associated and interacting processes (Beuzen & Belzung, 1995; McNaughton, 1997). For example, cognitive impairments in humans suffering from anxiety disorders have been described (Castaneda, Tuuio-Henriksson, Marttunen, Suvisaari, & Lonnqvist, 2008; Ferreri, Lapp, & Peretti, 2011), and it has been suggested that pathological variants of anxiety may be based on a primarily cognitive dysfunction in that inadequate anxiety responses may arise when there is a mismatch between the information perceived and the information already stored. Such a mismatch may then result in impaired integration at a higher cognitive level and could, as a consequence, eventually lead to inappropriate anxiety responses (Gray, 1990; Hindmarch, 1998; McNaughton, 1997). Furthermore, there is ample evidence that, for example, emotional arousal modulates memory formation, and thus cognitive processing of such emotional events (Cahill & McGaugh, 1998; McGaugh, Cahill, & Roozendaal, 1996). At the central nervous level, the brain structures involved in anxiety in animals, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, have been implicated in both memory processes and anxiety. In addition, compounds that reduce anxiety have been found to cause amnesia in both animals and humans (Kostowski, Plaznik, & Stefanski, 1989; LeDoux, 1992). However, contrary results have been found, in that increased anxiety has been associated with either cognitive deficits (e.g., Silva & Frussa-Filho, 2000) or an enhancement in emotional memory (e.g., Adreatini, Wolfman, Viola, Medina, Da Cunha & Ribeiro, 1999), and it remains unclear to what extent cognitive (dys)function may precede or, in contrast, result from a specific type of anxiety disorder (Garner, Mohler, Stein, Mueggler, & Baldwin, 2009). Especially, the relationship between pathological anxiety and cognitive functioning remains to be investigated.

Animals that are characterised by different levels of innate anxiety are used as a model to study the interaction between anxiety and cognitive functioning. …

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