Chronic stress causes frontostriatal reorganization and affects decision-making

Science. 2009 Jul 31;325(5940):621-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1171203.


The ability to shift between different behavioral strategies is necessary for appropriate decision-making. Here, we show that chronic stress biases decision-making strategies, affecting the ability of stressed animals to perform actions on the basis of their consequences. Using two different operant tasks, we revealed that, in making choices, rats subjected to chronic stress became insensitive to changes in outcome value and resistant to changes in action-outcome contingency. Furthermore, chronic stress caused opposing structural changes in the associative and sensorimotor corticostriatal circuits underlying these different behavioral strategies, with atrophy of medial prefrontal cortex and the associative striatum and hypertrophy of the sensorimotor striatum. These data suggest that the relative advantage of circuits coursing through sensorimotor striatum observed after chronic stress leads to a bias in behavioral strategies toward habit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrophy
  • Cell Count
  • Choice Behavior
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology*
  • Habits
  • Hypertrophy
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*