Sex Differences In Avoidance Extinction After Contextual Fear Conditioning: Anxioescapic Behavior In Female Rats

Khadijah Shanazz, Rachael Dixon-Melvin, Rebecca Nalloor, Riya Thumar, Almira I. Vazdarjanova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Fear memories are important for survival and are implicated in the etiology of fear disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Fear memories are well studied pre-clinically and sex differences in rodent fear expression have been reported: females tend to freeze less than males. Whether this is a difference in fear learning or expression is debated. We aimed to differentiate between these possibilities with a task that allowed female rats to express fear memory by moving, rather than freezing. We assessed fear extinction after contextual fear conditioning in the isolated Shock Arm of a Y-maze in female and male rats by either placing them back in the isolated Shock Arm (Fear Extinction in the Shock Context) or allowing them to move freely in the Y-maze during extinction training and enter/avoid the Shock Arm (Avoidance Extinction). We confirmed that female rats freeze less than males during fear extinction in both settings. During Avoidance Extinction, however, both sexes had similar avoidance of the Shock Context, showing comparable fear memory and extinction. Additionally, female rats made more entries into the non-shock arms. Thus, female and male rats have similar fear learning but females express it with an active motor response. Furthermore, female rats also exhibited an active motor response under other anxiogenic conditions (Elevated Plus Maze) and had higher reactivity (Acoustic Startle Response) but not when fear-eliciting stimuli were present: cat hair and foot-shock. In summary, female rats have an active motor response to anxiogenic stimuli which we termed ‘Anxioescapic’ behavior strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Aug 10 2022


  • PTSD
  • anxiety
  • avoidance extinction
  • fear extinction
  • rats
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex Differences In Avoidance Extinction After Contextual Fear Conditioning: Anxioescapic Behavior In Female Rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this