Acoustic startle response in rats predicts inter-individual variation in fear extinction

Amanda S. Russo, Ryan G. Parsons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Although a large portion of the population is exposed to a traumatic event at some point, only a small percentage of the population develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggesting the presence of predisposing factors. Abnormal acoustic startle response (ASR) has been shown to be associated with PTSD, implicating it as a potential predictor of the development of PTSD-like behavior. Since poor extinction and retention of extinction learning are characteristic of PTSD patients, it is of interest to determine if abnormal ASR is predictive of development of such deficits. To determine whether baseline ASR has utility in predicting the development of PTSD-like behavior, the relationship between baseline ASR and freezing behavior following Pavlovian fear conditioning was examined in a group of adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats. Baseline acoustic startle response (ASR) was assessed preceding exposure to a Pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm where freezing behavior was measured during fear conditioning, extinction training, and extinction testing. Although there was no relationship between baseline ASR and fear memory following conditioning, rats with low baseline ASR had significantly lower magnitude of retention of the extinction memory than rats with high baseline ASR. The results suggest that baseline ASR has value as a predictive index of the development of a PTSD-like phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic startle response
  • Extinction
  • Fear conditioning
  • Fear memory
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Trauma


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