Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Behav. Neurosci., 28 April 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00124

Contingency-based emotional resilience: effort-based reward training and flexible coping lead to adaptive responses to uncertainty in male rats

Kelly G. Lambert*, Molly M. Hyer, Amanda A. Rzucidlo, Timothy Bergeron, Timothy Landis and Massimo Bardi
  • Department of Psychology, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA, USA

Emotional resilience enhances an animal's ability to maintain physiological allostasis and adaptive responses in the midst of challenges ranging from cognitive uncertainty to chronic stress. In the current study, neurobiological factors related to strategic responses to uncertainty produced by prediction errors were investigated by initially profiling male rats as passive, active or flexible copers (n = 12 each group) and assigning to either a contingency-trained or non-contingency trained group. Animals were subsequently trained in a spatial learning task so that problem solving strategies in the final probe task, as well-various biomarkers of brain activation and plasticity in brain areas associated with cognition and emotional regulation, could be assessed. Additionally, fecal samples were collected to further determine markers of stress responsivity and emotional resilience. Results indicated that contingency-trained rats exhibited more adaptive responses in the probe trial (e.g., fewer interrupted grooming sequences and more targeted search strategies) than the noncontingent-trained rats; additionally, increased DHEA/CORT ratios were observed in the contingent-trained animals. Diminished activation of the habenula (i.e., fos-immunoreactivity) was correlated with resilience factors such as increased levels of DHEA metabolites during cognitive training. Of the three coping profiles, flexible copers exhibited enhanced neuroplasticity (i.e., increased dentate gyrus doublecortin-immunoreactivity) compared to the more consistently responding active and passive copers. Thus, in the current study, contingency training via effort-based reward (EBR) training, enhanced by a flexible coping style, provided neurobiological resilience and adaptive responses to prediction errors in the final probe trial. These findings have implications for psychiatric illnesses that are influenced by altered stress responses and decision-making abilities (e.g., depression).

Keywords: resilience, uncertainty, prediction errors, DHEA, contingency training, neuroplasticity markers, coping profiles

Citation: Lambert KG, Hyer MM, Rzucidlo AA, Bergeron T, Landis T and Bardi M (2014) Contingency-based emotional resilience: effort-based reward training and flexible coping lead to adaptive responses to uncertainty in male rats. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 8:124. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00124

Received: 22 November 2013; Accepted: 24 March 2014;
Published online: 28 April 2014.

Edited by:

Ruud Van Den Bos, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Reviewed by:

Bauke Buwalda, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Marijn Van Wingerden, Heinrich-Heine University Duesseldorf, Germany
Marion Rivalan, Neurocure, Germany

Copyright © 2014 Lambert, Hyer, Rzucidlo, Bergeron, Landis and Bardi. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Kelly G. Lambert, Department of Psychology, Copley Science Center 134B, Randolph-Macon College, 304 Caroline Street, Ashland, VA 23005, USA e-mail: klambert@rmc.edu

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