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Pharmacol Ther. 1990;47(2):147-65.

Animal models of anxiety based on classical conditioning: the conditioned emotional response (CER) and the fear-potentiated startle effect.

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  • 1Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06508.


Stimuli consistently paired with shock become capable of suppressing ongoing operant or consummatory behavior (the conditioned emotional response--CER) or elevating the amplitude of the startle reflex (fear-potentiated startle). These changes are used to infer a central state of fear which involves the central nucleus of the amygdala and its efferent projections to the brainstem. The present paper reviews how psychoactive drugs affect these measures. Both the CER and fear-potentiated startle are reduced by benzodiazepines, barbiturates and opiates. Advantages and disadvantages of these animal tests of anxiety are discussed.

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