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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008 Sep;32(7):1259-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.05.010. Epub 2008 May 15.

2,3,5-Trimethyl-3-thiazoline (TMT), a component of fox odor - just repugnant or really fear-inducing?

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Animal Physiology, University of Tübingen, Auf der Morgenstelle 28 D-72076 Tübingen, Germany.


During recent years, an increasing number of studies have used 2,3,5-trimethyl-3-thiazoline (TMT), a component of fox feces, as a stimulus to induce fear in predator naive rodents. The use of TMT is controversially discussed: There are some clear advantages of TMT against natural predator odors (e.g. stimulus intensity can be better controlled) but also still some open questions and objections regarding TMT. The aim of the present article is to discuss four often mentioned objections against TMT: (1) In some cases, TMT failed to produce fear behavior, (2) TMT is rather a noxious than a fear-inducing stimulus, (3) TMT does not support fear conditioning, and (4) there are different neural pathways processing natural predator odors and TMT. We summarize data showing different sensitivity to TMT in different rat strains. Then, new data are presented showing that TMT concentrations which are not avoided by rats induce fear behavior, and that concentrations of TMT and of the control odor butyric acid, which are similarly avoided, are totally different in their ability to induce fear behavior. Furthermore, we summarize and discuss data showing that fear conditioning to a TMT-paired context is possible and that there is an overlap between the neural basis for TMT- and cat odor-induced fear behavior. In conclusion, the recent data do not support the idea that TMT is simply a noxious stimulus which non-specifically induces fear behavior. Therefore, TMT is still a viable alternative stimulus to natural predator odors to investigate effects of predator odors on behavior.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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