Avoidance Behavior: A Free‐Operant Lever‐Press Avoidance Task for the Assessment of the Effects of Safety Signals

Anushka B.P. Fernando1, Adam C. Mar1, Gonzalo P. Urcelay1, Anthony Dickinson1, Trevor W. Robbins1

1 Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.32
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0832s70
Online Posting Date:  January, 2015
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Abstract

This protocol details a free‐operant avoidance paradigm that has been developed to evaluate the relative contribution of different sources of reinforcement of avoidance behavior that may play an important role in the development and maintenance of human anxiety disorders. The task enables the assessment of the effects of safety cues that signal a period free from danger on lever‐press avoidance behavior. Avoidance behavior trained using this protocol has been shown to be sensitive to both behavioral and pharmacological manipulations and has been optimized so that it takes approximately 1 month for rats to perform at high levels of stable avoidance responding. © 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Keywords: avoidance; rodents; habits; revaluation

     
 
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Table of Contents

  • Commentary
  • Literature Cited
  • Figures
  • Tables
     
 
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Materials

Basic Protocol 1:

  Materials
  • Rats (see Strategic Planning)
  • 70% ethanol (dissolved in distilled water; for cleaning and keeping the shock grids free from moisture)
  • Animal housing (see Strategic Planning)
  • Rat lever‐press operant chambers (Coulborn Instruments, Med Associates, or other commercial suppliers; or custom made lever‐press operant boxes)
  • Sound attenuating, fan ventilated cubicles (large enough to enclose each operant chamber)
  • Dedicated computer software (see Equipment Setup in Strategic Planning)
  • Hardware to interface the operant boxes (interfacing hardware is generally available from suppliers of the operant boxes)
  • Uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
  • Data handling software (e.g., Microsoft Access)
  • Data analysis software (e.g., SPSS)
  • Medical gloves (e.g., nitrile gloves)
  • Appropriate personal protection equipment (e.g., scrubs and FFP2D‐type mask)
  • Camera above chamber, connected to closed circuit monitor and digital video recording device (to monitor and record animals’ behavior; optional but recommended)
  • Controlling devices (see Equipment Setup in Strategic Planning)
  • Shelf to support rat chamber (for some tasks, see Equipment Setup in Strategic Planning)
  • Auditory stimuli (e.g., white noise or tone generators; with adjustable intensity and frequency)
  • Shock generators that produce scrambled shock delivered for up to 2 sec (see Equipment Setup in Strategic Planning)
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Figures

Videos

Literature Cited

Literature Cited
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