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Behav Brain Res. 2007 Jan 25;176(2):210-5. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Ontogeny of fear-, anxiety- and depression-related behavior across adolescence in C57BL/6J mice.

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Section on Behavioral Science and Genetics, Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


Adolescence is characterized by behavioral traits such as emotional lability and impulsivity that are associated with increased vulnerability to affective illness and addictions. Research in rodents has found that adolescent rats and mice differ from adults on measures of anxiety-like behavior, novelty seeking and stress-responsivity. The present study sought to extend these data by evaluating fear-, anxiety- and depression-related behaviors in male C57BL/6J mice aged four (early adolescent), six (peri-adolescent) or eight (early adult) weeks of age. Age groups were compared on: Pavlovian fear conditioning and extinction, anxiety-like behavior and exploratory locomotion (using elevated plus-maze and novel open field), and depression-related behavior (via forced swim test). Results showed that early adolescent mice exhibited enhanced fear conditioning, but extinguished at a similar rate as adults. There were no major differences in anxiety-like behavior across age groups, although early adolescent and peri-adolescent mice exhibited less exploratory locomotion than adults. Depression-related immobility behavior in the forced swim test was lower in early adolescents than adult mice across three test exposures. Present findings in the C57BL/6J inbred strain add to growing evidence of changes in rodent fear- and stress-related behaviors across the developmental transition from juvenility through adulthood. Understanding the neural basis of these ontogenic changes could provide insight into the pathogenesis and treatment of affective disorders that have their origins in adolescence.

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