Olfactory-Mediated Fear-Potentiated Startle

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Recently, R. Richardson, A. Vishney, and J. Lee (1999) reported that ambient odor cues that were previously paired with footshock potentiate the acoustic startle response in rats. The authors of the present study extend those findings by using a discrete 4-s amyl acetate odor paired with footshock to address several parametric issues that might be important for using odorants as conditioned stimuli (CSs) in this paradigm. Amyl acetate (5%) had no significant effect on startle in untrained rats but did potentiate startle in rats that received 1, 2, 5, or 10 odor–shock pairings. Fear-potentiated startle decreased but was still significant up to 40 days after conditioning and could be measured in test trials separated by as little as 30 s. The magnitude of potentiated startle decreased with decreasing concentrations of amyl acetate (5%–5 × 10−9%). The anxiolytic compound buspirone (10 mg/kg) significantly attenuated olfactory-mediated fear-potentiated startle.

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