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Behav Brain Res. 2009 Dec 1;204(1):162-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.05.036. Epub 2009 Jun 11.

Wistar-Kyoto rats as an animal model of anxiety vulnerability: support for a hypervigilance hypothesis.

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  • 1JP Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind & Behavior and Psychology Department, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA. mcauley@bgsu.edu


Inbred Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats have been proposed as a model of anxiety vulnerability as they display behavioral inhibition and a constellation of learning and reactivity abnormalities relative to outbred Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Together, the behaviors of the WKY rat suggest a hypervigilant state that may contribute to its anxiety vulnerability. To test this hypothesis, open-field behavior, acoustic startle, pre-pulse inhibition and timing behavior were assessed in WKY and Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. Timing behavior was evaluated using a modified version of the peak-interval timing procedure. Training and testing of timing first occurred without audio-visual (AV) interference. Following this initial test, AV interference was included on some trials. Overall, WKY rats took much longer to leave the center of the arena, made fewer line crossings, and reared less, than did SD rats. WKY rats showed much greater startle responses to acoustic stimuli and significantly greater pre-pulse inhibition than did the SD rats. During timing conditions without AV interference, timing accuracy for both strains was similar; peak times for WKY and SD rats were not different. During interference conditions, however, the timing behavior of the two strains was very different. Whereas peak times for SD rats were similar between non-interference and interference conditions, peak times for WKY rats were shorter and response rates higher in interference conditions than in non-interference conditions. The enhanced acoustic startle response, greater prepulse inhibition and altered timing behavior with audio-visual interference supports a characterization of WKY strain as hypervigilant and provides further evidence for the use of the WKY strain as a model of anxiety vulnerability.

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