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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibition increases noise burst-induced unconditioned and context-conditioned freezing

  • S. Melker Hagsäter (a1), Johan Thorén (a1), Robert Pettersson (a1) and Elias Eriksson (a1)

Abstract

Objective

Whereas long-term administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is effective for the treatment of anxiety disorders, acute administration of these drugs may exert a paradoxical anxiogenic effect. The aim of the present study was to explore the possible effect of an SSRI in situations of unconditioned or limited conditioned fear.

Methods

Male Sprague Dawley rats were administered a single dose of an SSRI, escitalopram, before acquisition or expression of context conditioned fear, where noise bursts were used as the unconditioned stimulus. Freezing was assessed as a measure of unconditioned fear (=the acute response to noise bursts) or conditioned fear (=the response to the context), respectively.

Results

Noise bursts elicited an acute increase in freezing but no robust conditioned response 7 days after exposure. Administration of escitalopram before testing exacerbated the freezing response during presentation of the unconditioned stimulus and also unmasked a conditioned response; in contrast, administration of escitalopram prior to acquisition did not influence the conditioned response.

Conclusion

The data suggest that freezing in rats exposed to a stimulus inducing relatively mild fear may be enhanced by acute pretreatment with an SSRI regardless of whether the freezing displayed by the animals is an acute unconditioned response to the stimulus in question or a conditioned response to the same stimulus.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: S. Melker Hagsäter, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, POB 431, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden. Tel: +46 31 786 34 00; Fax: +46 31 786 31 64; E-mail: melker.hagsater@neuro.gu.se

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