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Does Chronically Administered Intermittent Restraint Stress (IRS) have Long-Lasting Effects on Fear Extinction and Depressive-Like Behavior?

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The current study investigated whether intermittent restraint stress (IRS) would impair fear extinction learning and lead to increased anxiety and depressive- like behaviors and then be attenuated when IRS ends and a post- stress rest period ensues for 6 weeks.

The current study investigated whether intermittent restraint stress (IRS) would impair fear extinction learning and lead to increased anxiety and depressive- like behaviors and then be attenuated when IRS ends and a post- stress rest period ensues for 6 weeks. Young adult, male Sprague Dawley rats underwent restraint stress using wire mesh (6hr/daily) for five days with two days off before restraint resumed for three weeks for a total of 23 restraint days. The groups consisted of control (CON) with no restraint other than food and water restriction yoked to the restrained groups, stress immediate (STR-IMM), which were restrained then fear conditioned soon after the end of the IRS paradigm, and stress given a rest for 6 weeks before fear conditioning commenced (STR-R6). Rats were fear conditioned by pairing a 20 second tone with a footshock, then given extinction training for two days (15 tone only on each day). On the first day of extinction, all groups discriminated well on the first trial, but then as trials progressed, STR-R6 discriminated between tone and context less than did CON. On the second day of extinction, STR- IMM froze more to context in the earlier trials than compared to STR-R6 and CON. As trials progressed STR-IMM and STR-R6 froze more to context than compared to CON. Together, CON discriminated between tone and context better than did STR-IMM and STR-R6. Sucrose preference, novelty suppressed feeding, and elevated plus maze was performed after fear extinction was completed. No statistical differences were observed among groups for sucrose preference or novelty suppressed feeding. For the elevated plus maze, STR-IMM entered the open arms and the sum of both open and closed arms fewer than did STR- R6 and CON. We interpret the findings to suggest that the stress groups displayed increased hypervigilance and anxiety with STR-R6 exhibiting a unique phenotype than that of STR-IMM and CON.

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2018-05

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Impact of In-Utero Dexamethasone on Autonomic Regulation in Adulthood

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Premature babies are at risk of death from immature lung development. For this reason, pregnant mothers at risk for preterm delivery are administered dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid that promotes fetal lung development. However, exposure to DEX in utero is

Premature babies are at risk of death from immature lung development. For this reason, pregnant mothers at risk for preterm delivery are administered dexamethasone (DEX), a synthetic glucocorticoid that promotes fetal lung development. However, exposure to DEX in utero is associated with low birth weight and cardiovascular development pathologies. Moreover, our lab found that DEX administration in-utero leads to a sex-specific increase in stress-induced tachycardia in female, but not male offspring. This project seeks to expand on this preliminary finding of the heart by examining local effectors of activity from the sympathetic system (tyrosine hydroxylase and catechol-o-methyltransferase). Tyrosine hydroxylase was measured as it catalyzes the rate limiting step of norepinephrine synthesis while catechol-O- methyltransferase was studied as it catalyzes the degradation of norepinephrine. Acetylcholinesterase was used to measure parasympathetic activity as it catalyzes the degradation of the primary neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, acetylcholine. Analyses of sympathetic as well as parasympathetic activity were done to determine influences of in-utero DEX exposure on autonomic regulation in adulthood. Pregnant rats were administered DEX (0.4 mg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle (20% w/v 2-hydroxypropyl ß- cyclodextran) at gestation days 18-21, with euthanasia of offspring occurring at around the time the offspring reached 13-15 weeks of age. Left ventricles and right atria were pulverized, processed and subjected to western blot analysis to determine expression of proteins of interest. Males exposed to DEX in-utero saw a decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase expression in left ventricle and right atrium when compared to vehicle control, a difference not seen with females. In addition, catechol-o-methyltransferase expression was increased in right atria from male, but not female rats. Acetylcholinesterase expression was reduced in the right atria of female, but not male rats. The present findings suggest reduced norepinephrine signaling in the heart of male, but not female DEX-exposed offspring. Given that we have previously found that female, but not male rats exhibit exaggerated stress-induced tachycardia, our current findings suggest that males possess a sex-specific compensatory mechanism allowing the heart to resist increased sympathetic signaling from the brain, one that females do not possess. The underlying mechanics of this proposed mechanism are unclear, and further investigation is needed in this subject to determine the significance of the findings from our study.

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2021-05

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Is the Click the Trick? Examining the Efficacy of Clickers and Other Reinforcement Methods in Training Naïve Dogs to Perform New Tasks

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A handheld metal cricket noisemaker known as a "clicker" is often used in dog training to teach dogs new behaviors; however, evidence for the superior efficacy of clickers as opposed to providing solely primary reinforcement or other secondary reinforcers in

A handheld metal cricket noisemaker known as a "clicker" is often used in dog training to teach dogs new behaviors; however, evidence for the superior efficacy of clickers as opposed to providing solely primary reinforcement or other secondary reinforcers in the acquisition of novel behavior in dogs is almost entirely anecdotal. We sought to determine under what circumstances a clicker may result in acquisition of a novel behavior to a higher level when compared to other potential reinforcement methods. In Experiment 1, three groups of 30 dogs each were trained to emit a novel sit and stay behavior with either the delivery of food alone, a verbal marker with food, or a clicker and food. The group that received only a primary reinforcer reached a significantly higher criterion of training than the group trained with a verbal secondary reinforcer. Performance of the group experiencing a clicker secondary reinforcer was intermediate between the other two groups, but not significantly different from either. In Experiment 2, three different groups of 25 dogs each were shaped to emit a nose targeting behavior and then perform that behavior at increasing distances from the experimenter using the same three methods of positive reinforcement used in Experiment 1. No statistically significant differences between the groups were found. Overall, the findings suggest that both clickers and other forms of positive reinforcement can be used successfully in training a dog to perform a novel behavior.

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Date Created
2016-12

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Progestogens impact cognition during the transition to menopause in the rat: dissociation of progestogen- and memory- type

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Progestogens, such as progesterone (P4), medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), and micronized progesterone (mP4), are given to ovary-intact women during the transition to menopause to attenuate heavy uterine bleeding and other symptoms. Both progesterone and MPA administration have been shown to impair

Progestogens, such as progesterone (P4), medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), and micronized progesterone (mP4), are given to ovary-intact women during the transition to menopause to attenuate heavy uterine bleeding and other symptoms. Both progesterone and MPA administration have been shown to impair cognition in ovariectomized (Ovx) rats compared to vehicle-treated controls. mP4, however, has yet to be investigated for cognitive effects in a preclinical setting. Further, progestogens affect the GABA (-aminobutyric acid) ergic system, specifically glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) the rate limiting enzyme necessary for synthesizing GABA. The goal of this experiment was to investigate the cognitive impact of P4, MPA, and mP4, in an ovary-intact transitional menopause model using 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD) and assess whether these potential changes were related to the GABAergic system. One group of rats received vehicle injections, and the remainder of the groups received VCD to induce follicular depletion, modeling transitional menopause in women. Vehicle or hormone administration began during perimenopause to model the time period when women often take progestogens alone. Rats then underwent testing to assess spatial working and reference memory in the water radial-arm maze (WRAM) and spatial reference memory in the Morris water maze (MWM). Results indicate that P4 and MPA improved learning for working memory measure, but only MPA impaired memory retention in the WRAM. For the WRAM reference memory measure, VCD only treated rats showed impaired learning and memory retention compared to vehicle controls; progestogens did not impact this impairment. Although GAD expression did not differ between treatment groups, in general, there was a relationship between GAD expression and WRAM performance such that rats that tended to have higher GAD levels also tended to make more WRAM working memory errors. Thus, while P4 and MPA have been previously shown to impair cognition in an Ovx model, giving these hormones early in an ovary-intact perimenopause model elicits divergent effects, such that these progestogens can improve cognition. Additionally, these findings suggest that the cognitive changes seen herein are related to the interaction between progestogens and the GABAergic system. Further investigation into progestogens is warranted to fully understand their impact on cognition given the importance of utilizing progestogens in the clinic.

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Date Created
2019