UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Prior sexual experience increases hippocampal cell proliferation and decreases risk assessment behavior in response to acute predator odor stress in the male rat Spritzer, Mark D.; Weinberg, Alex; Viau, Victor; Galea, Liisa A. M.


Acute exposure to the predator odor trimethyl thiazoline (TMT) induces defensive behaviour in the male rat, and this response is associated with a decrease in cell proliferation within the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Sexual experience appears to be protective, as it exerts anxiolytic-like effects and sustains gonadal function in the face of stress. To examine the influence of sexual experience on subsequent stress-induced defensive behaviour and cell proliferation in the hippocampus we exposed adult male rats to TMT odor with or without prior exposure to sexually receptive female rats. A subset of rats were injected with the DNA-synthesis marker bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU; 200mg/kg) during TMT exposure and perfused 24 h later to provide an index of cell proliferation within the dentate gyrus. In response to TMT, sexual experience reduced the duration of stretched attend postures, but had no significant effect on defensive burying. Furthermore, TMT induced a significant increase in cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus, but only in males with sexual experience. The results demonstrate an influence of socio-sexual experience on the magnitude of the behavioral and neural responses to predator odor stress.

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