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Brain Res Bull. 1988 Sep;21(3):483-90.

Animal models of chronic anxiety and "fearlessness".

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Illinois, College of Medicine, Chicago 60612.


Three behavioral animal models have been described: a feline and a rodent model of chronic anxiety, and a rodent model of "fearless" behavior. The models have been obtained by pre- or perinatal exposure to diazepam (DZ) or RO 15-1788 which produced enduring postnatal deficits or enrichment, respectively, of brain benzodiazepine (BDZ) receptors. The receptor-deficient one-year-old cat progenies showed hyperarousal, unabated restless behavior, delayed acquisition of instrumentally conditioned behavior, bizarre escape responses and absence or reduced alpha-like EEG activity. The receptor-deficient rat progencies, studied at the age of 5-6 months, showed a reduction of time spent in deep slow wave sleep, and inability to habituate to novel environment, such as the radial arm maze. In the maze, the behavior of these progenies was characterized by delayed and incomplete exploratory activity often terminated by sudden escape, numerous fecal deposits and significantly more frequent than normal errors of "working memory." On the other hand, in all aspects, the receptor-enriched progenies were superior to the control animals as well as to the receptor-deficient group, particularly when the animals were challenged by novel and "intimidating" visual and/or auditory stimuli. In addition, 12 out of 51 receptor-deficient rats reared for 18 months developed mammary fibroadenomas, while no such tumors were found in the group of 44 vehicle-exposed control animals. Increased density and affinity of BDZ brain receptors was also observed after adult rats were treated with RO 15-1788 administered water for 7 or 14 days.

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