Effects of stress or infection on rat behavior show robust reversals due to environmental disturbance

F1000Res. 2017 Dec 6;6:2097. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.13171.2. eCollection 2017.


Background: The behavior of animals is intricately linked to the environment; a relationship that is often studied in laboratory conditions by using environmental perturbations to study biological mechanisms underlying the behavioral change. Methods: This study pertains to two such well-studied and well-replicated perturbations, i.e., stress-induced anxiogenesis and Toxoplasmagondii -induced loss of innate fear. Here, we demonstrate that behavioral outcomes of these experimental manipulations are contingent upon the ambient quality of the wider environment where animal facilities are situated. Results: During late 2014 and early 2015, a building construction project started adjacent to our animal facility. During this phase, we observed that maternal separation stress caused anxiolysis, rather than historically observed anxiogenesis, in laboratory rats. We also found that Toxoplasma gondii infection caused an increase, rather than historically observed decrease, in innate aversion to predator odors in rats. Conclusion: These observations suggest that effects of stress and Toxoplasma gondii are dependent on variables in the environment that often go unreported in the published literature.

Keywords: anxiety; construction; fear; housing environment; replicability.

Grant support

This work was financially supported by Ministry of Education, Singapore (grant RG136/15 and RG 46/12).