Selective enhancement of spatial learning under chronic psychosocial stress

Alessandro Bartolomucci, Gabriel De Biurrun, Boldizsár Czéh, Marja Van Kampen, Eberhard Fuchs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The hippocampus has long been proved to be implicated in several learning and memory processes. Being integrated into the limbic-hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, the hippocampus also plays an active role in the regulation of the stress response. Long lasting elevated levels of glucocorticoids resulting from a prolonged stress exposure affect hippocampal functions and structure, inducing learning and memory alterations and suppressing cell proliferation in the adult dentate gyrus. Here, adult male tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) exposed to chronic psychosocial stress were tested repeatedly on a holeboard apparatus using two different learning tasks devised to evaluate hippocampal-dependent and hippocampal-independent cognitive function. We show that chronic stress enhanced learning in animals performing the hippocampal-dependent task, whereas no stress-induced effect was found in the hippocampal-independent task. Additionally, after five weeks of stress, cell proliferation was reduced in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. These results indicate that specific memory processes not only may remain intact, but indeed are facilitated by chronic stress, despite elevated cortisol levels and suppressed hippocampal cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1863-1866
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2002


  • Hippocampus
  • Holeboard
  • Neurogenesis
  • Social stress
  • Spatial learning
  • Tree shrew


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