Psychological stress is believed to be implicated in the etiology of affective disorders such as anxiety and depression. To date, a wide range of behavioral responses including analgesia and motor suppression induced by various physiological stressors such as footshock, forced swimming and immobilization have been investigated in animals. However, there is little information concerning behavioral changes in psychological stress. This article describes the experimental procedures and the characteristics of motor suppression in psychological stress, defined as conditioned fear stress (CFS). Mice exhibit a marked suppression of motility when they are re-placed in the same environment in which they had previously received an electric footshock. This motor suppression is regarded as a conditioned emotional response to the environment associated with previous footshock. The motor suppression in CFS is attenuated by sigma receptor agonists such as (+)-N- allylnormetazocine and dextromethorphan, whereas typical anxiolytics (diazepam and chlordiazepoxide) and antidepressants (imipramine and fluoxetine) have no effect. These findings suggest that the CFS model may be useful for investigating the pathogenesis of affective disorders, particularly those considered to be treatment resistant, and for developing their novel therapeutic drugs.
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