Temporary inactivation of the anterior part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis blocks alarm pheromone-induced defensive behavior in rats

Front Neurosci. 2015 Sep 9:9:321. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00321. eCollection 2015.


Rats emit an alarm pheromone in threatening situations. Exposure of rats to this alarm pheromone induces defensive behaviors, such as head out behavior, and increases c-Fos expression in brain areas involved in the mediation of defensive behaviors. One of these brain areas is the anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (aBNST). The goal of the present study was to investigate if pharmacological inactivation of the aBNST by local microinjections of the GABAA receptor-agonist muscimol modulates alarm pheromone-induced defensive behaviors. We first established the behavioral paradigm of alarm pheromone-induced defensive behaviors in Sprague-Dawley rats in our laboratory. In a second experiment, we inactivated the aBNST, then exposed rats to one of four different odors (neck odor, female urine, alarm pheromone, fox urine) and tested the effects of the aBNST inactivation on the behavior in response to these odors. Our data show that temporary inactivation of the aBNST blocked head out behavior in response to the alarm pheromone. This indicates that the aBNST plays an important role in the mediation of the alarm pheromone-induced defensive behavior in rats.

Keywords: BNST; alarm pheromone; anxiety; fear; muscimol; odor-induced anxiety; rats; risk assessment behavior.