Pavlovian autoshaping procedures increase plasma corticosterone levels in rats

Arthur Tomie, Yuval Silberman, Kayon Williams, Larissa A. Pohorecky

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34 Scopus citations


Pavlovian autoshaping conditioned responses (CRs) are complex sequences of conditioned stimulus (CS)-directed skeletal-motor responses that are elicited by CS objects predictive of food unconditioned stimulus (US). Autoshaping CRs are observed under conditions known to be conducive to elevations in plasma corticosterone levels, as, for example, in response to the eating of food as well as in response to signals predictive of food. Two experiments investigated the relationships between Pavlovian autoshaping procedures, the performance of Pavlovian autoshaping CRs, and plasma corticosterone levels in male Long-Evans rats. In Experiment 1, rats in the CS-US paired group (n=30) were given 20 daily sessions of Pavlovian autoshaping training wherein the insertion of a retractable lever CS was followed by the response-independent presentation of the food US. Tail blood samples obtained after the 20th autoshaping session revealed higher plasma corticosterone levels in the CS-US paired group than in the CS-US random control group (n=10). In Experiment 2, rats (n=35) were assessed for basal plasma corticosterone levels 2 weeks prior to autoshaping training. Plasma samples obtained immediately following the first autoshaping session, and prior to the acquisition of lever-press autoshaping CR performance, revealed higher plasma corticosterone levels in the CS-US paired group (n=24) relative to basal levels. This effect was not observed in the CS-US random control group (n=11). Data suggest that corticosterone release is a physiological endocrine Pavlovian CR induced by lever CS-food US pairings during Pavlovian autoshaping procedures, rather than a by-product of autoshaping CR performance. Implications of the link between autoshaping procedures and corticosterone release are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-513
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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