Fear-potentiated startle reflex test

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The fear-potentiated startle reflex test is a paradigm in which amplitude of a simple reflex is increased when presented with a cue that has been previously paired with an aversive stimulus.

In the training phase, subjects are exposed to several light-footshocks pairings in a Startle box. Later, in the test phase, acoustic startling stimuli are presented consecutively to the light cue. If the association between the light cue and footshocks has been correctly learned in the training phase, light cue prior exposure increases the startle response. Inversely, in subjects with alteration of learning and memory abilities, prior presentation of the light cue does not change the startle response.

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Reasons for choosing this test

  • Associative learning, short- and long-term memory
  • Non-operant procedure
  • Does not require prior food deprivation
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • Requires footshocks (stressful)
  • Needs intact sensorimotor gating
  • Fear and anxiety influence the startle response
  • Change in pain sensitivity can interfere with footshock intensity perception
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