Cognitive processes are influenced by underlying affective states, and tests of cognitive bias have recently been developed to assess the valence of affective states in animals. These tests are based on the fact that individuals in a negative affective state interpret ambiguous stimuli more pessimistically than individuals in a more positive state. Using two strains of mice we explored whether unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) can induce a negative judgement bias and whether variation in the expression of stereotypic behaviour is associated with variation in judgement bias. Sixteen female CD-1 and 16 female C57BL/6 mice were trained on a tactile conditional discrimination test with grade of sandpaper as a cue for differential food rewards. Once they had learned the discrimination, half of the mice were subjected to UCMS for three weeks to induce a negative affective state. Although UCMS induced a reduced preference for the higher value reward in the judgement bias test, it did not affect saccharine preference or hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) activity. However, UCMS affected responses to ambiguous (intermediate) cues in the judgement bias test. While control mice showed a graded response to ambiguous cues, UCMS mice of both strains did not discriminate between ambiguous cues and tended to show shorter latencies to the ambiguous cues and the negative reference cue. UCMS also increased bar-mouthing in CD-1, but not in C57BL/6 mice. Furthermore, mice with higher levels of stereotypic behaviour made more optimistic choices in the judgement bias test. However, no such relationship was found for stereotypic bar-mouthing, highlighting the importance of investigating different types of stereotypic behaviour separately
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