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Neuropharmacology. 2015 Mar;90:102-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2014.11.016. Epub 2014 Nov 29.

Activation of 5-HT2a receptors in the basolateral amygdala promotes defeat-induced anxiety and the acquisition of conditioned defeat in Syrian hamsters.

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Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.


Conditioned defeat is a model in Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in which normal territorial aggression is replaced by increased submissive and defensive behavior following acute social defeat. The conditioned defeat response involves both a fear-related memory for a specific opponent as well as anxiety-like behavior indicated by avoidance of novel conspecifics. We have previously shown that systemic injection of a 5-HT2a receptor antagonist reduces the acquisition of conditioned defeat. Because neural activity in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) is critical for the acquisition of conditioned defeat and BLA 5-HT2a receptors can modulate anxiety but have a limited effect on emotional memories, we investigated whether 5-HT2a receptor modulation alters defeat-induced anxiety but not defeat-related memories. We injected the 5-HT2a receptor antagonist MDL 11,939 (0 mM, 1.7 mM or 17 mM) or the 5-HT2a receptor agonist TCB-2 (0 mM, 8 mM or 80 mM) into the BLA prior to social defeat. We found that injection of MDL 11,939 into the BLA impaired acquisition of the conditioned defeat response and blocked defeat-induced anxiety in the open field, but did not significantly impair avoidance of former opponents in the Y-maze. Furthermore, we found that injection of TCB-2 into the BLA increased the acquisition of conditioned defeat and increased anxiety-like behavior in the open field, but did not alter avoidance of former opponents. Our data suggest that 5-HT2a receptor signaling in the BLA is both necessary and sufficient for the development of conditioned defeat, likely via modulation of defeat-induced anxiety.


5-HT2a receptor; Anxiety; Basolateral amygdala; Conditioned defeat; Fear; Stress

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