Freezing behavior is used as a measure of a rodent's ability to learn during fear conditioning. However, it is possible that the expression of other behaviors may compete with freezing, particularly in rodent populations that have not been thoroughly studied in this context. Rearing and grooming are complex behaviors that are frequently exhibited by mice during fear conditioning. Both behaviors have been shown to be stress-sensitive, and the expression of these behaviors is dependent upon strain background. To better understand how genetic background impacts behavioral responses during fear conditioning, we examined freezing, rearing, and grooming frequencies prior to fear conditioning training and across different stages of fear conditioning testing in male mice from eight inbred mouse strains (C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, FVB/NJ, SWR/J, BTBR T + ltpr3Tf/J, SM/J, LP/J, 129S1/SvlmJ) that exhibited diverse freezing responses. We found that genetic background determined rearing and grooming expression throughout fear conditioning, and their patterns of expression across stages of fear conditioning were strain dependent. Using publicly available SNP data, we found that polymorphisms in Dab1, a gene that is implicated in both grooming and learning phenotypes, separated the strains with high contextual grooming from the others using a hierarchical clustering analysis. This suggested a potential genetic mechanism for the observed behavioral differences. These findings demonstrate that genetic background determines behavioral responses during fear conditioning and suggest that shared genetic substrates underlie fear conditioning behaviors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience