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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Effects of aversive stimuli on learning and memory in Arctic ground squirrels.

The present study was designed to assess effects of aversive stimuli on learning and memory in wild-caught Arctic ground squirrels ( AGS, Spermophilus parryii) using an active avoidance learning paradigm. Results indicate that animals trained with low-value aversive stimuli (air puffs and lights) retained the task better than animals trained with high-value aversive stimuli (air puffs, lights, and foot shock). Poor retention could not be explained by learning impairment, fear-induced freezing behavior or the effects of massed versus spaced training trials. Wild-caught AGS readily hibernate under laboratory conditions and provide a model of pronounced adult synaptic plasticity associated with emergence from hibernation. Characterization of learning and retention using active avoidance as well as other learning paradigms is a first step towards developing behavioral paradigms to assess cognitive function in this wild-trapped species. The present study shows that captive AGS are sensitive to aversive stimuli, argues for a direct effect on retention and suggests that high baseline levels of stress in a captive population may influence behavioral measures. The results further suggest that future studies of the effects of hibernation on learning and retention of active avoidance tasks employ low-level aversive stimuli.[1]


  1. Effects of aversive stimuli on learning and memory in Arctic ground squirrels. Zhao, H., Bucci, D.J., Weltzin, M., Drew, K.L. Behav. Brain Res. (2004) [Pubmed]
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