learned helplessness


Summary: Learned expectation that one's responses are independent of reward and, hence, do not predict or control the occurrence of rewards. Learned helplessness derives from a history, experimentally induced or naturally occurring, of having received punishment/aversive stimulation regardless of responses made. Such circumstances result in an impaired ability to learn. Used for human or animal populations. (APA, Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, 1994)

Top Publications

  1. Dwivedi Y, Mondal A, Payappagoudar G, Rizavi H. Differential regulation of serotonin (5HT)2A receptor mRNA and protein levels after single and repeated stress in rat brain: role in learned helplessness behavior. Neuropharmacology. 2005;48:204-14 pubmed
    Stress-induced learned helplessness in animals serves as a model of behavioral depression and other stress-related disorders...
  2. Chourbaji S, Zacher C, Sanchis Segura C, Dormann C, Vollmayr B, Gass P. Learned helplessness: validity and reliability of depressive-like states in mice. Brain Res Brain Res Protoc. 2005;16:70-8 pubmed
    The learned helplessness paradigm is a depression model in which animals are exposed to unpredictable and uncontrollable stress, e.g. electroshocks, and subsequently develop coping deficits for aversive but escapable situations (J.B...
  3. Ryan B, Vollmayr B, Klyubin I, Gass P, Rowan M. Persistent inhibition of hippocampal long-term potentiation in vivo by learned helplessness stress. Hippocampus. 2010;20:758-67 pubmed publisher
    ..In contrast, acute inescapable footshock stress, used to study learned helplessness, inhibited LTP for at least 4 weeks...
  4. Henn F, Vollmayr B. Stress models of depression: forming genetically vulnerable strains. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005;29:799-804 pubmed
    ..b>Learned helplessness is one such model and is induced through exposure to uncontrollable and unpredictable aversive events...
  5. Aznar S, Klein A, Santini M, Knudsen G, Henn F, Gass P, et al. Aging and depression vulnerability interaction results in decreased serotonin innervation associated with reduced BDNF levels in hippocampus of rats bred for learned helplessness. Synapse. 2010;64:561-5 pubmed publisher
    ..Brains from young (5 months old) and old (13 months old) congenital Learned Helplessness rats (cLH), and congenital Non Learned Helplessness rats (cNLH) were immunohistochemically stained for the ..
  6. Camargo L, Nascimento A, Almeida S. Differential response to gepirone but not to chlordiazepoxide in malnourished rats subjected to learned helplessness. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2008;41:54-9 pubmed
    The learned helplessness (LH) paradigm is characterized by learning deficits resulting from inescapable events...
  7. Sartorius A, Mahlstedt M, Vollmayr B, Henn F, Ende G. Elevated spectroscopic glutamate/gamma-amino butyric acid in rats bred for learned helplessness. Neuroreport. 2007;18:1469-73 pubmed
    ..In this study, the effect of alterations of GABA and Glu were investigated in the congenital learned helplessness paradigm...
  8. Shumake J, Barrett D, Gonzalez Lima F. Behavioral characteristics of rats predisposed to learned helplessness: reduced reward sensitivity, increased novelty seeking, and persistent fear memories. Behav Brain Res. 2005;164:222-30 pubmed
    The congenitally helpless rat strain, which was selectively bred for increased susceptibility to learned helplessness, may model the predisposition to affective disorders, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder...
  9. Tejedor Real P, Costela C, Gibert Rahola J. Neonatal handling reduces emotional reactivity and susceptibility to learned helplessness. Involvement of catecholaminergic systems. Life Sci. 1998;62:37-50 pubmed
    ..and dopaminergic systems in the long-lasting effects of neonatal handling on both emotionality and learned helplessness behaviour. Animals received either prazosin, propranolol, haloperidol or saline before infantile handling...

More Information


  1. Itoh T, Tokumura M, Abe K. Effects of rolipram, a phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor, in combination with imipramine on depressive behavior, CRE-binding activity and BDNF level in learned helplessness rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2004;498:135-42 pubmed
    ..4, a major phosphodiesterase isozyme hydrolyzing cAMP, in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of learned helplessness rats, an animal model for depression...
  2. Huang Y, Cheng C, Hong C, Tsai S. Expression of c-Fos-like immunoreactivity in the brain of mice with learned helplessness. Neurosci Lett. 2004;363:280-3 pubmed
    The learned helplessness (LH) developed after repeat inescapable stress is a well validated animal model of human major depression and is not species specific...
  3. Xu C, Luo L, Tan R. Antidepressant effect of three traditional Chinese medicines in the learned helplessness model. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;91:345-9 pubmed
    ..the presumable antidepressant effects of the extracts derived from the three remedies in mice using the learned helplessness model being used for screening for antidepressant compounds in modern medicinal researches...
  4. Vollmayr B, Simonis C, Weber S, Gass P, Henn F. Reduced cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus is not correlated with the development of learned helplessness. Biol Psychiatry. 2003;54:1035-40 pubmed
    ..To test for these hypotheses, we used a rat model of depression, learned helplessness. Moderate unpredictable and inescapable foot shocks induced learned helplessness only in a portion of the ..
  5. Maier S. Exposure to the stressor environment prevents the temporal dissipation of behavioral depression/learned helplessness. Biol Psychiatry. 2001;49:763-73 pubmed
    ..a set of behavioral changes such as poor escape learning that have been called behavioral depression and learned helplessness. This paradigm has been proposed to be a model of depression and of anxiety-related disorders such as ..
  6. Vollmayr B, Faust H, Lewicka S, Henn F. Brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF) stress response in rats bred for learned helplessness. Mol Psychiatry. 2001;6:471-4, 358 pubmed
    ..This may explain the lack of adaptive responses in this strain. ..
  7. Overmier J. On learned helplessness. Integr Physiol Behav Sci. 2002;37:4-8 pubmed
    quot;Learned helplessness" and its Pavlovian analog, learned irrelevance, are phenomena thought integral to understanding depression, PTSD, psychosomatic vulnerability, and a variety of diseases and immune disorders...
  8. Saade S, Balleine B, Minor T. The L-type calcium channel blocker nimodipine mitigates "learned helplessness" in rats. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;74:269-78 pubmed
    ..Finally, administration of nimodipine at two of the three time points did improve escape responding, but only when injected immediately prior both to shock exposure and the shuttle escape test. ..
  9. Greenwood B, Strong P, Foley T, Thompson R, Fleshner M. Learned helplessness is independent of levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus. Neuroscience. 2007;144:1193-208 pubmed
    ..The current studies examined the role of BDNF in the behavioral consequences of inescapable stress, or learned helplessness. Inescapable stress decreased BDNF mRNA and protein in the hippocampus of sedentary rats...
  10. Joca S, Zanelati T, Guimarães F. Post-stress facilitation of serotonergic, but not noradrenergic, neurotransmission in the dorsal hippocampus prevents learned helplessness development in rats. Brain Res. 2006;1087:67-74 pubmed
    ..social stress and high corticosteroid levels would impair this coping mechanism, predisposing animals to learned helplessness. To test the hypothesis that increasing serotonin or noradrenaline levels in the dorsal hippocampus would ..
  11. Gernigon C, Fleurance P, Reine B. Effects of uncontrollability and failure on the development of learned helplessness in perceptual-motor tasks. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2000;71:44-54 pubmed
    The aim of this study was to distinguish between the roles of uncontrollability and failure on learned helplessness in a perceptual-motor task...
  12. Chourbaji S, Zacher C, Sanchis Segura C, Spanagel R, Gass P. Social and structural housing conditions influence the development of a depressive-like phenotype in the learned helplessness paradigm in male mice. Behav Brain Res. 2005;164:100-6 pubmed
    ..different social and structural housing conditions on the development of a depressive-like syndrome in the learned helplessness paradigm...
  13. Hajszan T, Dow A, Warner Schmidt J, Szigeti Buck K, Sallam N, Parducz A, et al. Remodeling of hippocampal spine synapses in the rat learned helplessness model of depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2009;65:392-400 pubmed publisher
    ..synapses of male rats (n=127) with electron microscopic stereology in association with performance in the learned helplessness paradigm...
  14. Strong P, Greenwood B, Fleshner M. The effects of the selective 5-HT(2C) receptor antagonist SB 242084 on learned helplessness in male Fischer 344 rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009;203:665-75 pubmed publisher
    ..These behaviors in rats have been called learned helplessness and have been argued to model human stress-related mood disorders...
  15. Kurata A, Morinobu S, Fuchikami M, Yamamoto S, Yamawaki S. Maternal postpartum learned helplessness (LH) affects maternal care by dams and responses to the LH test in adolescent offspring. Horm Behav. 2009;56:112-20 pubmed publisher
    ..Using learned helplessness (LH) in rats as an animal model of depression, we examined the influence of maternal postpartum LH on ..
  16. Vollmayr B, Bachteler D, Vengeliene V, Gass P, Spanagel R, Henn F. Rats with congenital learned helplessness respond less to sucrose but show no deficits in activity or learning. Behav Brain Res. 2004;150:217-21 pubmed
    Inbred rat strains for congenital learned helplessness (cLH) and for congenital resistance to learned helplessness (cNLH) were investigated as a model to study genetic predisposition to major depression...
  17. Greenwood B, Foley T, Day H, Campisi J, Hammack S, Campeau S, et al. Freewheel running prevents learned helplessness/behavioral depression: role of dorsal raphe serotonergic neurons. J Neurosci. 2003;23:2889-98 pubmed
    Serotonin (5-HT) neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) are implicated in mediating learned helplessness (LH) behaviors, such as poor escape responding and expression of exaggerated conditioned fear, induced by acute exposure to ..
  18. Vollmayr B, Henn F. Learned helplessness in the rat: improvements in validity and reliability. Brain Res Brain Res Protoc. 2001;8:1-7 pubmed
    ..Animal models of depression are urgently needed to investigate new hypotheses. The learned helplessness paradigm initially described by Overmier and Seligman [J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol...
  19. Hajszan T, Szigeti Buck K, Sallam N, Bober J, Parducz A, MacLusky N, et al. Effects of estradiol on learned helplessness and associated remodeling of hippocampal spine synapses in female rats. Biol Psychiatry. 2010;67:168-74 pubmed publisher
    ..These findings suggest that hippocampal spine synapse remodeling might be a critical factor underlying learned helplessness and, possibly, the neurobiology of depression.
  20. Bertaina Anglade V, La Rochelle C, Boyer P, Mocaer E. Antidepressant-like effects of agomelatine (S 20098) in the learned helplessness model. Behav Pharmacol. 2006;17:703-13 pubmed
    ..in the chronic mild stress and forced swimming tests, the effects of agomelatine were investigated in the learned helplessness test and compared with those of imipramine, melatonin and a selective 5-hydroxytryptamine2C antagonist, SB-..
  21. Dalla C, Edgecomb C, Whetstone A, Shors T. Females do not express learned helplessness like males do. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2008;33:1559-69 pubmed
    ..experiments, we identified sex differences in one of the most common animal models of depression, that of learned helplessness. Male and female rats were trained to escape a mild footshock each day for 7 days (controllable stress)...
  22. Iwata M, Shirayama Y, Ishida H, Kawahara R. Hippocampal synapsin I, growth-associated protein-43, and microtubule-associated protein-2 immunoreactivity in learned helplessness rats and antidepressant-treated rats. Neuroscience. 2006;141:1301-13 pubmed
    b>Learned helplessness rats are thought to be an animal model of depression...
  23. Joca S, Padovan C, Guimarães F. Activation of post-synaptic 5-HT(1A) receptors in the dorsal hippocampus prevents learned helplessness development. Brain Res. 2003;978:177-84 pubmed
    ..social stress and high corticosteroid levels would impair this coping mechanism, predisposing animals to learned helplessness. To test the hypothesis that increasing serotonin levels in the dorsal hippocampus would attenuate the ..
  24. Habel U, Wild B, Topka H, Kircher T, Salloum J, Schneider F. Transcranial magnetic stimulation: no effect on mood with single pulse during learned helplessness. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2001;25:497-506 pubmed
    ..At the same time an established learned helplessness paradigm was applied to induce dysphoria, which consisted of unsolvable anagrams. 3. Sixty 0...
  25. Enkel T, Spanagel R, Vollmayr B, Schneider M. Stress triggers anhedonia in rats bred for learned helplessness. Behav Brain Res. 2010;209:183-6 pubmed publisher
    ..In summary, we demonstrate that a predisposition for learned helplessness interacts with stress to trigger anhedonic-like behaviour in cLH rats...
  26. Uyanaev A, Fisenko V. Studies of long-term noopept and afobazol treatment in rats with learned helplessness neurosis. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2006;142:202-4 pubmed
    ..of new Russian psychotropic drugs Noopept and Afobazol on active avoidance conditioning and formation of learned helplessness neurosis were studied on an original experimental model in rats...
  27. Kuribara H, Tomioka H, Takahashi R, Onozato K, Murohashi N, Numajiri T, et al. An antidepressant effect of Sho-ju-sen, a Japanese herbal medicine, assessed by learned helplessness model in mice. Phytother Res. 2004;18:173-6 pubmed
    ..et Zucc) and ginseng radix (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer), was assessed using a learned helplessness model in mice...
  28. Zazpe A, Artaiz I, Labeaga L, Lucero M, Orjales A. Reversal of learned helplessness by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in rats is not dependent on 5-HT availability. Neuropharmacology. 2007;52:975-84 pubmed
    ..In the rat learned helplessness (LH) paradigm, a valid animal model of human depression, repeated treatment with the 5-HT(1A) receptor ..
  29. Kram M, Kramer G, Ronan P, Steciuk M, Petty F. Dopamine receptors and learned helplessness in the rat: an autoradiographic study. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2002;26:639-45 pubmed
    ..2) Utilizing the learned helplessness (LH) animal model of clinical depression and quantitative autoradiography, the authors studied the ..
  30. Bauer H, Pripfl J, Lamm C, Prainsack C, Taylor N. Functional neuroanatomy of learned helplessness. Neuroimage. 2003;20:927-39 pubmed
    ..female subjects were presented with reasoning tasks that changed from solvable to unsolvable, evoking "learned helplessness" or "loss of control" reactions in some subjects...
  31. Maier S, Watkins L. Stressor controllability and learned helplessness: the roles of the dorsal raphe nucleus, serotonin, and corticotropin-releasing factor. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2005;29:829-41 pubmed
    The term 'learned helplessness' refers to a constellation of behavioral changes that follow exposure to stressors that are not controllable by means of behavioral responses, but that fail to occur if the stressor is controllable...
  32. Takamori K, Yoshida S, Okuyama S. Repeated treatment with imipramine, fluvoxamine and tranylcypromine decreases the number of escape failures by activating dopaminergic systems in a rat learned helplessness test. Life Sci. 2001;69:1919-26 pubmed
    Chronic administration of antidepressants has been shown to reduce the number of escape failures in the rat learned helplessness test (LH). In the present study we investigated the role of D1, D2 and D3 receptors in mediating this effect...
  33. Greenwood B, Fleshner M. Exercise, learned helplessness, and the stress-resistant brain. Neuromolecular Med. 2008;10:81-98 pubmed publisher
    ..Using the behavioral consequences of uncontrollable stress or "learned helplessness" as an animal analog of depression- and anxiety-like behaviors in rats, we are investigating factors ..
  34. Schulz D, Mirrione M, Henn F. Cognitive aspects of congenital learned helplessness and its reversal by the monoamine oxidase (MAO)-B inhibitor deprenyl. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2010;93:291-301 pubmed publisher
    Cognitive processes are assumed to change with learned helplessness, an animal model of depression, but little is known about such deficits...
  35. Thumboo J, Fong K, Chan S, Leong K, Feng P, Thio S, et al. The Rheumatology Attitudes Index and its helplessness subscale are valid and reliable measures of learned helplessness in Asian patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. J Rheumatol. 1999;26:1512-7 pubmed
    ..The RAI and its helplessness subscale are valid and reliable measures of learned helplessness in a multiethnic cohort of Asian patients with SLE in Singapore.
  36. Reed A, Anderson J, Bylund D, Petty F, El Refaey H, Happe H. Treatment with escitalopram but not desipramine decreases escape latency times in a learned helplessness model using juvenile rats. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009;205:249-59 pubmed publisher
    ..Procedures for use with juvenile rats at postnatal day (PND) 21 and 28 were adapted from the adult learned helplessness model in which, 24 h after exposure to inescapable stress, animals are unable to remove themselves from an ..
  37. Schulte Herbrüggen O, Chourbaji S, Muller H, Danker Hopfe H, Brandwein C, Gass P, et al. Differential regulation of nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in a mouse model of learned helplessness. Exp Neurol. 2006;202:404-9 pubmed
    ..Thus, subsequent studies of frontal cortex BDNF expression should carefully consider an interhemispherical variance to avoid misinterpretation. ..
  38. Takase L, Nogueira M, Bland S, Baratta M, Watkins L, Maier S, et al. Effect of number of tailshocks on learned helplessness and activation of serotonergic and noradrenergic neurons in the rat. Behav Brain Res. 2005;162:299-306 pubmed
    ..The following day, their escape latencies in a shuttlebox were measured in order to estimate the degree of learned helplessness (LH) produced by the varying number of shocks...
  39. Itoh T, Abe K, Tokumura M, Horiuchi M, Inoue O, Ibii N. Different regulation of adenylyl cyclase and rolipram-sensitive phosphodiesterase activity on the frontal cortex and hippocampus in learned helplessness rats. Brain Res. 2003;991:142-9 pubmed
    ..the activities of adenylyl cyclase (AC) and rolipram-sensitive phosphodiesterase (PDE4) on brain regions in learned helplessness rat in order to clarify the cyclic AMP (cAMP) regulation system in the depressive state...
  40. Johnson R, O Reilly M, Vostanis P. Caring for children with learning disabilities who present problem behaviours: a maternal perspective. J Child Health Care. 2006;10:188-98 pubmed
    ..It is proposed that the amalgamated impact of these can weaken parents' coping resources and, therefore, may prove to be as significant to the negative association with maternal wellbeing as the problem behaviour. ..
  41. Hommel K, Chaney J, Wagner J, Jarvis J. Learned helplessness in children and adolescents with juvenile rheumatic disease. J Psychosom Res. 2006;60:73-81 pubmed
    To examine a learned helplessness conceptualization of psychological sequela in children and adolescents with juvenile rheumatic diseases (JRD) via an experimental procedure utilizing behavior-outcome contingent and noncontingent feedback...
  42. Evans G, Gonnella C, Marcynyszyn L, Gentile L, Salpekar N. The role of chaos in poverty and children's socioemotional adjustment. Psychol Sci. 2005;16:560-5 pubmed
  43. Schiavone D. The effects of exposure to community violence on aspects of adolescent identity development. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2009;22:99-105 pubmed publisher
    ..When working with adolescents, it is important for nurses to assess for community violence exposure and promote coping strategies that reduce distress and foster healthy intimacy. ..
  44. Newton S, Thome J, Wallace T, Shirayama Y, Schlesinger L, Sakai N, et al. Inhibition of cAMP response element-binding protein or dynorphin in the nucleus accumbens produces an antidepressant-like effect. J Neurosci. 2002;22:10883-90 pubmed
    ..regions and used these mice to determine the functional significance of this transcription factor in the learned helplessness paradigm, a behavioral model of depression...
  45. Singal A, Tirkey N, Muragundla A, Chopra K. Green tea [Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze] extract reverses the despair behaviour in reserpinised and diabetic mice. Indian J Exp Biol. 2006;44:913-7 pubmed
    ..Although the exact mechanism is yet to be explored, the possible inhibition of catechol-o-methyl transferase and monoamine oxidase enzymes may be responsible for antidepressant activity of GTE. ..
  46. Hatfield J, Job R, Hede A, Carter N, Peploe P, Taylor R, et al. Human response to environmental noise: the role of perceived control. Int J Behav Med. 2002;9:341-59 pubmed
    Negative impacts of noise exposure on health and performance may result in part from "learned helplessness," the syndrome of deficits typically produced by exposure to uncontrollable events...
  47. Imada H, Kitaguchi K. Recent learned helplessness/irrelevance research in Japan: conceptual framework and some experiments on learned irrelevance. Integr Physiol Behav Sci. 2002;37:9-21 pubmed
    In Section 1, a conceptual framework within which to study learned helplessness (LH), learned irrelevance (LI) and the related phenomena is introduced...
  48. Steptoe A, Marmot M. Burden of psychosocial adversity and vulnerability in middle age: associations with biobehavioral risk factors and quality of life. Psychosom Med. 2003;65:1029-37 pubmed
    ..This integrated approach to the investigation of psychosocial factors may prove valuable in understanding etiological processes. ..
  49. Chaki S, Nakazato A, Kennis L, Nakamura M, Mackie C, Sugiura M, et al. Anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like profile of a new CRF1 receptor antagonist, R278995/CRA0450. Eur J Pharmacol. 2004;485:145-58 pubmed
    ..72-s (DRL72), while it showed dose-dependent antidepressant-like effects in the rat learned helplessness paradigm and the olfactory bulbectomy model, demonstrating activity in a subset of animal models of ..
  50. Veenema A, Cremers T, Jongsma M, Steenbergen P, de Boer S, Koolhaas J. Differences in the effects of 5-HT(1A) receptor agonists on forced swimming behavior and brain 5-HT metabolism between low and high aggressive mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005;178:151-60 pubmed
  51. Caldarone B, Harrist A, Cleary M, Beech R, King S, Picciotto M. High-affinity nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are required for antidepressant effects of amitriptyline on behavior and hippocampal cell proliferation. Biol Psychiatry. 2004;56:657-64 pubmed
    ..These data support the hypothesis that antagonism of nAChRs is an essential component of the therapeutic action of antidepressants. ..
  52. Diener C, Kuehner C, Brusniak W, Struve M, Flor H. Effects of stressor controllability on psychophysiological, cognitive and behavioural responses in patients with major depression and dysthymia. Psychol Med. 2009;39:77-86 pubmed publisher
    ..Alterations in prefrontal functioning appear to contribute to this vulnerability and are also linked to trait markers of depression. ..
  53. Samwel H, Kraaimaat F, Crul B, Evers A. The role of fear-avoidance and helplessness in explaining functional disability in chronic pain: a prospective study. Int J Behav Med. 2007;14:237-41 pubmed
    ..The current findings support the roles of both fear-avoidance factors and helplessness in the functional disability in chronic-pain patients awaiting treatment but revealed a central role for avoidance behavior. ..