Chronic corticosterone treatment impairs spontaneous alternation behavior in rats

Behav Neural Biol. 1994 Mar;61(2):186-90. doi: 10.1016/s0163-1047(05)80074-3.


The present study used behavioral and morphological measures to assess hippocampal integrity in adult male rats after 8 weeks of daily corticosterone (10 mg/kg) injections. Behavioral testing during the final week of treatment revealed that spontaneous alternation behavior, a behavioral marker of hippocampal damage, was reduced in experimental animals without influencing exploration. Physiological assessment indicated that steroid exposure produced functional changes characteristic of prolonged exposure to stress or elevated plasma corticosterone, i.e., lower body weight and thymic involution. However, hippocampal cell loss was not observed in experimental rats. The data suggest that prolonged elevation of plasma corticosterone may significantly disrupt a hippocampal-sensitive behavior without producing gross morphological changes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleolus / drug effects
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology*
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / drug effects*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Orientation / drug effects*
  • Rats


  • Corticosterone