Plus-maze retest profile in mice: importance of initial stages of trail 1 and response to post-trail cholinergic receptor blockade.Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1996 May; 54(1):41-50.PB
Recent research has shown that a single undrugged prior experience of the elevated plus-maze produces significant behavioural changes upon 24-h retest in rats and mice. Typically, when reexposed to the maze, animals display an increased avoidance of the open arms and a corresponding preference for the enclosed sections of the apparatus. Using ethological analyses, the present series of experiments sought to further characterize this phenomenon in mice and to determine whether or not it involves cholinergic receptor mechanisms. Results confirmed that behaviour during Trial 2 is markedly different to that seen on initial exposure, and that such changes are independent of the duration of Trial 1 (2 vs. 5 min). Retest behavioural changes included reduced entry latencies, reduced open arm entries, less time on the open arms and centre platform, lower levels of exploratory head-dipping, and increased entries into and time spent in the closed arms. The importance to the retest phenomenon of the first few minutes of initial exposure was further suggested by min-by-min analyses of the behaviour of animals naive to the maze. Results showed that behaviour during the first min is characterized by high levels of risk assessment from the centre platform and relatively low, but equal, levels of open- and closed-arm exploration. From min 2 onwards, however, behaviour showed a marked change with increasing open arm/centre platform avoidance, increasing closed-arm preference, and decreasing levels of risk assessment and exploratory head-dipping. Thus, it would appear that this within-session aversive learning transfers between sessions to account for behavioural profiles on retest. Irrespective of the duration of Trial 1 (2 or 5 min), posttrial administration of the muscarinic antagonist, scopolamine (0.1-1.0 mg/kg), failed to significantly alter the behavioural changes seen between trials. Data are discussed in relation to the apparent sensitization of fear produced by plus-maze exposure, its possible relation to phobia acquisition, and the need for further research on underlying mechanisms.