Fear conditioning test

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Fear conditioning is a form of Pavlovian learning that involves making association between stimuli and their aversive consequences.

Briefly, this task is based on the conditioning of an innate response to fear consisting in a complete lack of movements, i.e. the freezing behavior. During a training phase, the animal is exposed to a conditioned stimulus (tone or light), paired with a mild footshock (unconditioned stimulus). After a delay, the context-dependent fear is evaluated by measuring freezing behavior in subjects replaced in the same apparatus without tone/light presentation, whereas cued-dependent fear is reflected by measuring freezing in response to tone/light presentation in a distinct chamber. These tasks require different brain areas.

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Reasons for choosing this test

  • Associative learning (classical conditioning), short- and long-term memory
  • Allows assessing memory dependent on hippocampus (contextual fear conditioning) or not (cue-dependent fear conditioning)
  • Standard test for phenotyping
  • Conditioning task
  • Does not require prior food deprivation
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • Requires footshocks (stressful)
  • Fear and anxiety influence the freezing response
  • Change in pain sensitivity can interfere with footshock intensity perception
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