The present study investigated whether repeated early postnatal exposure to the predator odor 2,5-dihydro-2,4,5-trimethylthiazoline (TMT) alters behavioral responses to the stimulus later in life, at postnatal day (PN30). Long-Evans rat pups with their mothers were exposed for 20 min daily to TMT, water, or a noxious odor, butyric acid (BTA), during the first three weeks of life. Mothers exposed to TMT displayed more crouching and nursing behavior than those exposed to BTA, and TMT exposed pups emitted more ultrasonic vocalizations than BTA exposed pups. At PN30, rats were tested for freezing to TMT, water, or BTA. Rats exposed to TMT during the postnatal period displayed less freezing to TMT than rats exposed postnatally to water or BTA. Our data indicate that early-life experience with a predator cue has a significant impact on later fear responses to that same cue, highlighting the programming capacity of the postnatal environment on the development of behavior.
Keywords: TMT; early-life; fear; maternal care; predator odor; pup vocalization.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.