Investigatory behavior of a novel conspecific by Wistar Kyoto, Wistar and Sprague-Dawley rats

Brain Res Bull. 2000 Dec;53(6):759-65. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(00)00362-2.


The assumption was made that investigatory behaviors (i.e., ano-genital and general body sniffing) of a female conspecific by a mature male rat, has positive hedonic characteristics. Because reduced interest in pleasurable events (i.e., anhedonia) is diagnostically related to depressive behavior, the hypothesis was advanced that less investigatory behavior would be observed in an animal model of depression, namely the Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rat strain. In Experiment 1, WKY, Wistar and Sprague-Dawley male rats were subjected, in the first test series, to three consecutive 2-min exposures to one intruder stimulus female, followed later by another three consecutive 2-min exposures to a second stimulus intruder female. On the second test series, 24 h later, the male rats were exposed to one female for 2 min, followed 6 min later to another 2-min exposure to another stimulus female. Half the male subjects were subjected to tail shock stress 2 h before the first test series. All males demonstrated a habituation of the investigatory response to the same stimulus female, but a dishabituation when subsequently exposed to a new stimulus female. Only WKY rats, exposed to prior stress, revealed a significant reduction in investigatory behavior. In Experiment 2, using only WKY and Wistar rats, a factorial design was used to observe any differences between two stressors, namely tail shock and water restraint, and also to observe possible differences in investigatory behavior towards male vs. female intruder rats. Restraint stress and shock stress elicited significant reductions in investigatory behavior for WKY rats, but not Wistar rats, when confronted with female intruder rats. Male intruders elicited more freezing behavior, as well as aggressive defensive fighting behavior from resident male rats. The results are interpreted to suggest that the significant decrease in investigatory behavior towards a female intruder, which was observed primarily in stressed WKY males, reflects the presence of anhedonia in stressed WKY rats, and reinforces our assertion that the WKY rat strain represents a useful animal model of depressive behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY / physiology*
  • Rats, Inbred WKY / psychology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / physiology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley / psychology
  • Rats, Wistar / physiology*
  • Rats, Wistar / psychology
  • Reward
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*