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Behavioral validation of a new animal model to study the neural processing of controllability over aversive stimuli

Grant number: 19/03445-0
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2019
Effective date (End): June 30, 2020
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Psychology - Experimental Psychology
Principal researcher:João Pereira Leite
Grantee:Bruno de Avó Mesquita
Home Institution: Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto (FMRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:16/17882-4 - Drug-resistant epilepsies: diagnostic challenges, associated comorbidities and new experimental approaches, AP.TEM


The perception of control over stress is one of the main determinants of the degree of its influence on the organism. Animal models of neuropsychiatric disorders, especially depression, are usually based on uncontrollable stressors and the consequent generalization of the expectancy of uncontrollability over future stimuli, a phenomenon consistent with the clinical condition. Nevertheless, the mechanisms underlying the neuronal encoding of stressor controllability and uncontrollability are still unknown. The objective of the present project is the structuring and validation of an animal model to study the neural processing of stressor controllability where a single experimental subject discriminates controllable and uncontrollable aversive stimuli signaled by distinct conditioned stimuli. A detailed characterization of the ability to discriminate between controllable and uncontrollable stress, as well as influencing factors and associated phenomena will be performed. It will be evaluated: (1) the influence of the nature of escape response in the ability to discriminate aversive stimuli; (2) behavioral flexibility by reversing the associations between conditioned and aversive stimuli; (3) the possibility of transferring the discrimination by conditioned stimuli to different contexts with different escape tasks; (4) the influence of previous discrimination of controllability over appetitive stimuli. Finally, an experimental protocol that encompasses all revealed phenomena and influential factors associated with the behavioral discrimination between controllable and uncontrollable stress will be implemented, so it could be used in a neurobiological exploration.

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