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Brain Res. 2001 Apr 6;897(1-2):228-37.

The cardiovascular and behavioral response to cat odor in rats: unconditioned and conditioned effects.

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Department of Psychology, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Sydney, Australia.


Cardiovascular and behavioral responses were recorded in rats during exposure to cat odor. Rats were habituated to an open rectangular arena that contained a small enclosed wooden box in which they could hide. On day 1 of the experiment, after 30 min in the apparatus, rats were presented with a piece of fabric collar for 60 min. On day 2, rats were presented with an identical piece of fabric collar, except that it had been worn by a cat and therefore exuded cat odor. On day 3, rats were again presented with an unworn cat collar, to determine any conditioned responses to the environment or stimulus (collar) previously associated with cat odor. Results showed significantly increased blood pressure and decreased activity during exposure to cat odor as well as avoidance of the odor stimulus and an increase in vigilance and risk-assessment measures. No significant change in heart rate was found during cat odor exposure. On day 3, a transient increase in blood pressure was seen as well as reduced activity and a range of defensive behaviors. This suggests some conditioning of fear to a context in which cat odor had previously been experienced. Heart rate was also significantly decreased on day 3. A transient rise in blood pressure was also seen when the unworn cat collar was placed into the apparatus on day 3, suggesting a conditioned response to a stimulus that has been previously associated with cat odor. This study demonstrates that a natural stressful stimulus can induce both unconditioned and conditioned autonomic and behavioral responses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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