Evaluation of an operant successive negative contrast task as a method to study affective state in rodents.Behav Brain Res. 2012 Oct 01; 234(2):155-60.BB
Successive negative contrast (SNC) describes a change in an animal's behaviour following a downshift in the quantitative or qualitative value of a reward. Previous studies suggest both consummatory and instrumental paradigms have the potential to provide an objective measure of affective state in rodents. We first investigated whether an SNC effect is observed in an operant task based on the 5 choice serial reaction time task. We then tested whether this SNC effect was sensitive to differences in affective state induced by manipulating the home cage environment. In animals trained to receive a four pellet food reward, reinforcer downshift to a single reward pellet induced a significant slowing of both correct response and collection latencies to levels below that of animals which had only ever received the lower value reward, indicating a SNC effect. Home cage environmental enrichment resulted in a paradoxical effect on responses in this SNC task where animals housed in a barren environment showed faster baseline response times and the SNC effect was significantly attenuated. These data suggest that the animals housed in the barren conditions were in a more positive affective and/or motivational state during testing than animals housed in enriched cages. Although opposite to the effects of housing conditions in a runway SNC task, these data could be explained by the enriching effects of daily training in an operant task. Rather than inducing a negative affective state in rats, the barren housing conditions resulted in a relatively more positive affective state in the chamber when compared to animals living in a highly enriched environment.