Behavioral and brain mechanisms mediating conditioned flight behavior in rats Academic Article uri icon



    Environmental contexts and associative learning can inform animals of potential threats, though it is currently unknown how contexts bias defensive transitions. Here we investigated context-dependent flight responses in the Pavlovian serial-compound stimulus (SCS) paradigm. We show here that SCS-evoked flight behavior in male and female rats is dependent on contextual fear. Flight was reduced in the conditioning context after context extinction and could be evoked in a different shock-associated context. Although flight was exclusive to white noise stimuli, it was nonetheless associative insofar as rats that received an equal number of unpaired USs did not show flight-like behavior. Finally, we found that inactivation of either the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) attenuated both contextual fear and flight responses. This work demonstrates that contextual fear summates with cued and innate fear to drive a high fear state and freeze-to-flight transitions.

author list (cited authors)

  • Totty, M. S., Warren, N., Huddleston, I., Ramanathan, K. R., Ressler, R. L., Oleksiak, C. R., & Maren, S.

publication date

  • January 1, 2021 11:11 AM