Long-term effects of controllability or the lack of it on coping abilities and stress resilience in the rat

Morgan Lucas, Yana Ilin, Rachel Anunu, Orli Kehat, Lin Xu, Aline Desmedt, Gal Richter-Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Findings suggest that stress-induced impaired learning and coping abilities may be attributed more to the psychological nature of the stressor, rather than its physical properties. It has been proposed that establishing controllability over stressors can ameliorate some of its effects on cognition and behavior. Gaining controllability was suggested to be associated with the development of stress resilience. Based on repeated exposure to the two-way shuttle avoidance task, we previously developed and validated a behavioral task that leads to a strict dissociation between gaining controllability (to the level that the associated fear is significantly reduced) and a fearful state of uncontrollability. Employing this protocol, we investigated here the impact of gaining or failing to gain emotional controllability on indices of anxiety and depression and on subsequent abilities to cope with positively or negatively reinforcing learning experiences. In agreement with previous studies, rats exposed to the uncontrollable protocol demonstrated high concentration of sera corticosterone, increased immobility, reduced duration of struggling in the forced swim test and impaired ability to acquire subsequent learning tasks. Achieving emotional controllability resulted in resilience to stress as was indicated by longer duration of struggling in the forced swim test, and enhanced learning abilities. Our prolonged training protocol, with the demonstrated ability of rats to gain emotional controllability, is proposed as a useful tool to study the neurobiological mechanisms of stress resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a 2007research grant to G.R-L from the Institute for the study of affective Neuroscience (ISAN) at the University of Haifa endowed by the Hope for Depression Research Foundation (HDRF), by a 1403/07 grant of the Israel Science Foundation, and by a grant from the German Israeli Project Cooperation (DIP).


  • Controllability
  • Coping behavior
  • Learned helplessness
  • Mood disorders
  • Rat
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Physiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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