Influence of long-term sensitization on long-term habituation of the acoustic startle response in rats: central gray lesions, preexposure, and extinction

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 1989 Jan;15(1):54-64.


The relation between long-term decrements of the acoustic startle response in rats and the development of freezing behavior during habituation training was examined. Freezing behavior developed over the initial trials of habituation training, and the rate of long-term response decrements was found to be inversely related to the development of freezing. Manipulations (neurological or behavioral) that either reduced the level of freezing or retarded its development promoted startle response decrements. In Experiment 1, rats receiving electrolytic lesions of the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray demonstrated both accelerated long-term startle response decrements and retarded development of freezing behavior. In Experiment 2, preexposure to the startle apparatus (i.e., latent inhibition) accelerated long-term startle decrements and inhibited development of freezing. In Experiment 3, exposure to the startle apparatus following initial habituation training (i.e., extinction) reduced both freezing behavior and startle response amplitudes. The results are discussed in terms of the influence of Pavlovian fear conditioning on long-term habituation of the acoustic startle response.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*