Cognitive and neural correlates of depression-like behaviour in socially defeated mice: An animal model of depression with cognitive dysfunction

Tao Yu, Ming Guo, Jacob Garza, Samantha Rendon, Xue Li Sun, Wei Zhang, Xinyun Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


Human depression is associated with cognitive deficits. It is critical to have valid animal models in order to investigate mechanisms and treatment strategies for these associated conditions. The goal of this study was to determine the association of cognitive dysfunction with depression-like behaviour in an animal model of depression and investigate the neural circuits underlying the behaviour. Mice that were exposed to social defeat for 14 d developed depression-like behaviour, i.e. anhedonia and social avoidance as indicated by reduced sucrose preference and decreased social interaction. The assessment of cognitive performance of defeated mice demonstrated impaired working memory in the T-maze continuous alternation task and enhanced fear memory in the contextual and cued fear-conditioning tests. In contrast, reference learning and memory in the Morris water maze test were intact in defeated mice. Neuronal activation following chronic social defeat was investigated by c-fosin-situ hybridization. Defeated mice exhibited preferential neural activity in the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex, hippocampal formation, septum, amygdala, and hypothalamic nuclei. Taken together, our results suggest that the chronic social defeat mouse model could serve as a valid animal model to study depression with cognitive impairments. The patterns of neuronal activation provide a neural basis for social defeat-induced changes in behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-317
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2011



  • c-fos mRNA expression
  • chronic social defeat
  • cognition
  • depression
  • fear memory
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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