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No effect of glucose administration in a novel contextual fear generalization protocol in rats


The excessive transfer of fear acquired for one particular context to similar situations has been implicated in the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Recent evidence suggests that glucose ingestion improves the retention of context conditioning. It has been speculated that glucose might exert that effect by ameliorating hippocampal functioning, and may hold promise as a therapeutic add-on in traumatized patients because improved retention of contextual fear could help to restrict its generalization. However, direct data regarding the effect of glucose on contextual generalization are lacking. Here, we introduce a new behavioral protocol to study such contextual fear generalization in rats. In adult Wistar rats, our procedure yields a gradient of generalization, with progressively less freezing when going from the original training context, over a perceptually similar generalization context, to a markedly dissimilar context. Moreover, we find a flattening of the gradient when the training-test interval is prolonged with 1 week. We next examine the effect of systemic glucose administration on contextual generalization with this novel procedure. Our data do not sustain generalization-reducing effects of glucose and question its applicability in traumatic situations. In summary, we have developed a replicable contextual generalization procedure for rats and demonstrate how it is a valuable tool to examine the neurobiological correlates and test pharmacological interventions pertaining to an important mechanism in the etiology of pathological anxiety.

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