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Behav Neurosci. 2007 Jun;121(3):594-601.

Conditioned behavioral responses to a context paired with the predator odor trimethylthiazoline.

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Tierphysiologie, Zoologisches Institut, Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Contextual fear conditioning is the learning of a fear response in a specific context in response to repeated application of aversive stimuli (e.g., foot shocks) or danger-related stimuli (predator odors) within that context. Cat odor, a danger-related stimulus common in laboratory studies of fear in the past, has often been replaced recently with trimethylthiazoline (TMT), a component of fox feces. No contextual fear conditioning in response to TMT has been reported so far, whereas cat odor has often been shown to induce such fear conditioning in rats. Using TMT in both a 1-compartment and a 2-compartment setup, the authors found conditioned fear behavior (expressed as avoidance behavior) in the 2-compartment setup but not--as reported by others--in the 1-compartment setup. Detailed analysis revealed 2 different coping strategies in the 2-compartment setup: Half of the rats showed pronounced avoidance behavior, whereas the other half showed intense risk assessment behavior. These results indicate that expression of conditioned fear behavior in response to a TMT-paired context is dependent on the experimental setup used, as well as the strategy of the individual rat.

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