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Use of the forced swim test to assess “despair”

      In their recently published manuscript, “Chronic brain stimulation rewarding experience ameliorates depression-induced cognitive deficits and restores aberrant plasticity in the prefrontal cortex,” [
      • Chakraborty S.
      • Tripathi S.J.
      • Srikumar B.N.
      • Raju T.R.
      • Shankaranarayana Rao B.S.
      Chronic brain stimulation rewarding experience ameliorates depression-induced cognitive deficits and restores aberrant plasticity in the prefrontal cortex.
      ] Chakraborty and colleagues describe subjecting rats to the forced swim test (FST), which involves dropping them into inescapable tanks of water and measuring how long they attempt to climb and swim before becoming relatively immobile, making only the motions necessary to keep their noses above the water line. The authors state that they use the FST to assess the animals' “despair” following early life injections of clomipramine hydrochloride (CLI) and, later, intracranial self-stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus - medial forebrain bundle (LH-MFB). From their FST results, the authors conclude, “repeated electrical self-stimulation of LH-MFB ameliorates behavioral despair … in neonatal CLI model of depression” [
      • Chakraborty S.
      • Tripathi S.J.
      • Srikumar B.N.
      • Raju T.R.
      • Shankaranarayana Rao B.S.
      Chronic brain stimulation rewarding experience ameliorates depression-induced cognitive deficits and restores aberrant plasticity in the prefrontal cortex.
      ]. They go on to say, “We speculate that brain stimulation rewarding experience could be evolved as a potential therapeutic strategy to treat affective disorders” and, “Our results support the hypothesis that chronic brain stimulation rewarding experience might be evolved as a potential treatment strategy for reversal of learning deficits in depression and associated disorders” [
      • Chakraborty S.
      • Tripathi S.J.
      • Srikumar B.N.
      • Raju T.R.
      • Shankaranarayana Rao B.S.
      Chronic brain stimulation rewarding experience ameliorates depression-induced cognitive deficits and restores aberrant plasticity in the prefrontal cortex.
      ]. The authors offered no discussion as to other possible interpretations of the animals’ behavior or to the scientific controversy surrounding this behavioral test.
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