Dissociation of learned helplessness and fear conditioning in Mice: a mouse model of depression

Researchers discuss that an important element of Helplessness is its “transituationality”.  Meaning that Helplessness conditioned in one environment is generalizable to other situations.   Researchers wanted to separate helplessness from conditioned fear by testing for transituationality. 

They first conditioned mice with tail shocks to induce helplessness.  Then after two days of shock conditioning the mice were placed into a shuttle box.  Here they shocked the mice’s feet to see if they tried to escape to the non-shocking side of the shuttle box.  If the mice escaped to the non-shocking side this would mean that the mice had not developed learned helplessness.  If he mice did not attempt to escape the shocks this would indicate that they had developed helplessness via the tail shocks and it transferred to the shuttle box.  

The researchers found that around 50% of the mice would escape to the non-shocking side  The other 50% would not attempt to escape the shocks despite having never been conditioned in a shuttle box.  This means that 50% of the mice developed learned helplessness that transferred from the tail shock conditioning.  This research is important because the researchers devised away to separate the effects of conditioned fear from learned helplessness.