Failure to change exploration or saccharin preference in rats exposed to chronic mild stress

Ruth B.S. Harris, Jun Zhou, Bradley D. Youngblood, Gennady N. Smagin, Donna H. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Chronic mild stress (CMS) exposes animals to unpredictable stressors. Reduced consumption of sucrose or saccharin solutions by CMS rats has been used as a putative measure of anhedonia, typical of depression. Our objective was to determine whether saccharin consumption and preference and suppression of exploratory and rearing behaviors in the open field were reliable indicators of CMS-induced behavioral depression. In Experiment 1, male Wistar rats subjected to 6 weeks of CMS consumed signiticantly less food and gained less weight than controls. CMS did not effect saccharin intake, or preference, measured in a two-bottle test with water. CMS rats exposed to a novel open field strowed increased exploration and rearing. In a second test, performed immediately after a novel stress of restraint, there were no differences in exploratory or rearing behavior of CMS and control rats. In Experiment 2, CMS was reduced to 3 weeks and rats were single or group housed in their home cages. Open field activity of CMS rats was similar to that in Experiment 1. Saccharin preference of CMS rats was significantly suppressed when tested after 24 hours of water deprivation, but was not different from controls after 5 hours of water deprivation. In the final experiment Sprague Dawley rats behaved the same as Wistar rats in the CMS paradigm. Therefore, the CMS protocol used in these experiments did not induce behaviors indicative of depression but did cause a mild anorexia and weight loss. Saccharin intake of CMS rats was dependent upon their dehydration state and could not be attributed to stress-induced anhedonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 31 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Anhedonia
  • Chronic mild stress
  • Depression
  • Saccharin preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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