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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008 Sep;32(7):1277-86. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.05.014. Epub 2008 May 17.

Acute and chronic effects of ferret odor exposure in Sprague-Dawley rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, United States.


This manuscript describes several behavioral and functional studies evaluating the capacity of ferret odors to elicit a number of acute and long-term responses in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Acute presentation elicits multiple responses, suggesting that ferret odor, likely from skin gland secretions, provides an anxiogenic-like stimulus in this strain of rats. Compared to cat odor, however, ferret odor did not produce rapid fear conditioning, a result perhaps attributable to methodological factors. Inactivation of the olfactory system and medial nucleus of the amygdala, combined with induction of the immediate-early gene c-fos, suggest the necessity of the accessory olfactory system in mediating the effects of ferret odor. Repeated exposures to ferret odor produce variable habituation of neuroendocrine and behavioral responses, perhaps indicative of the lack of control over the exact individual origin or concentration of ferret odor. Ferret odor induces rapid and long-term body weight regulation, thymic involution, adrenal hyperplasia and facilitation of the neuroendocrine response to additional challenges. It is argued that the use of such odors is exquisitely suited to investigate the brain regions coordinating anxiety-like responses and the long-term changes elicited by such stimuli.

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