Cat odor causes long-lasting contextual fear conditioning and increased pituitary-adrenal activation, without modifying anxiety

Cristina Muñoz-Abellán, Nuria Daviu, Cristina Rabasa, Roser Nadal, Antonio Armario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A single exposure to a cat or cat odors has been reported by some groups to induce contextual and auditory fear conditioning and long-lasting changes in anxiety-like behaviour, but there is no evidence for parallel changes in biological stress markers. In the present study we demonstrated in male rats that exposure to a novel environment containing a cloth impregnated with cat fur odor resulted in avoidance of the odor, lower levels of activity and higher pituitary-adrenal (PA) response as compared to those exposed to the novel environment containing a clean cloth, suggesting increased levels of stress in the former animals. When re-exposed 9 days later to the same environment with a clean cloth, previously cat fur exposed rats again showed avoidance of the cloth area and lower levels of activity, suggesting development of contextual fear conditioning, which again was associated with a higher PA activation. In contrast, unaltered both anxiety-like behaviour and PA responsiveness to an elevated plus-maze were found 7 days after cat odor exposure. It is concluded that: (i) PA activation is able to reflect both the stressful properties of cat fur odor and odor-induced contextual fear conditioning; (ii) development of cat odor-induced contextual fear conditioning is independent of the induction of long-lasting changes in anxiety-like behaviour; and (iii) greater PA activation during exposure to the odor context is not explained by non-specific sensitization of the PA axis caused by previous exposure to cat fur odor. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-471
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009

Keywords

  • ACTH
  • Corticosterone, Animal PTSD models, Long-term effects
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Predator odor
  • Stress

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