An automatic recording system for the study of escape from fear in rats

Ming Li, Wei He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Escape from fear (EFF) is an active response to a conditioned stimulus (CS) previously paired with an unconditioned fearful stimulus (US), which typically leads to the termination of the CS. In this paradigm, animals acquire two distinct associations: S-S [CS-US] and R-O [response-outcome] through Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning, respectively. The present study describes a computer controlled automatic recording system that captures the development of EFF and allows the determination of the respective roles of S-S and R-O associations in this process. We validated this system by showing that only rats subjected to a simultaneous CS-US conditioning (i.e., CS and US occur together at the beginning of each trial) acquired EFF, not those subjected to an unpaired CS-US conditioning. Paired rats had a progressively increased number of EFF and significantly shorter escape latencies than unpaired rats across the 5-trial blocks on the test day. However, during the conditioning phase, the unpaired rats emitted more 22. kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, a validated measure of conditioned reactive fear responses. Our results demonstrate that the acquisition of EFF is contingent upon pairing of the CS with the US, not simply the consequence of a high level of generalized fear. Because this commercially available system is capable of examining both conditioned active and reactive fear responses in a single setup, it could be used to determine the relative roles of S-S and R-O associations in EFF, the neurobiology of conditioned active fear response and neuropharmacology of psychotherapeutic drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-17
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • 22kHz USV
  • Automatic recording
  • Escape from fear
  • Instrumental
  • Shuttle boxes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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