Defeat and the threat of defeat by an aggressive conspecific is stressful and may engender an anxiety-or fear-like state in animals; the present experiment investigated whether defeat generalized to the discriminative stimulus properties of PTZ and how benzodiazepine receptors were involved in this generalization. Separate groups of male Long-Evans rats (Rattus norvegicus) were trained to discriminate 20 mg/kg pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) or 0.4 mg/kg midazolam (MDZ) from saline in a two-choice drug-discrimination task. After establishing stimulus control, PTZ- and MDZ-trained rats were exposed to an aggressive conspecific which resulted in defeat, as defined by the display of defensive and submissive postures as well as audible and ultrasonic vocalizations. Administration of saline after defeat resulted in greater than 80% PTZ lever selection in 15 out of 25 PTZ-trained rats; this effect was attenuated through pretreatment with MDZ (1 mg/kg). Furthermore, short-term defeat substitution for the PTZ discriminative stimulus was not accompanied by long-term changes in the post-defeat generalization curves for PTZ and MDZ when compared to pre-defeat generalization curves. Nor did defeat alter the antagonism of PTZ by diazepam (2.5 mg/kg) or MDZ by flumazenil (10 mg/kg). In order further to characterize the necessary features for defeat substitution for the PTZ discriminative stimulus, exposure to a threatening conspecific was also attempted by PTZ-trained rats protected from physical contact with a wire mesh cage. In these tests, saline continued to engender greater than 50% PTZ lever responding in 15 of 25 rats. These results suggest that an anxiety-like state is induced during defeat and exposure to a threatening conspecific in most rats; this state, as well as the PTZ discriminative stimulus, can be reversed by benzodiazepine receptor agonists. In contrast, short-term defeat substitution for the PTZ discriminative stimulus does not appear to be related to long-term alterations in the benzodiazepine receptor.
- Drug discrimination
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