Social Buffering of Plasma Corticosterone and Amygdala Responses of Young Rats Following Exposure to Periorbital Shock: Implications for Eyeblink Conditioning Development.

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Publication Date



97747800 (Orcid)


The developmental onset of aversive learning processes depends on complex interactions between endocrine, neural, and social influences. Emergence of avoidance conditioning in rat pups is triggered by elevated plasma corticosterone activating the amygdala. Further, the mother’s ability to buffer the corticosterone response delays the onset of avoidance in ˜2-week-old pups. Eyeblink conditioning (EBC) also develops during the pre-weaning period. In previous work, little or no conditioning was observed on Day 17 for pups housed in the home cage with mother and littermates between training sessions, whereas pups isolated between training sessions did show some conditioning. This suggests that social buffering may also delay the onset of this form of aversive learning. In the present study with Day-17 pups, one session of periorbital shock, the typical EBC unconditioned stimulus for young rat pups, resulted in lower plasma corticosterone levels and neural activity in the central nucleus of the amygdale (CeA) of pups returned to the mother and homecage following the session as compared to pups isolated following the shock session. These findings demonstrate social buffering of the physiological response to aversive stimulus exposure under conditions of EBC and support the hypothesis that social buffering of early adverse experience may adjust the timing of emergence of EBC in rat pups.



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