Leverpress Escape/Avoidance Conditioning in Rats: Safety Signal Length and Avoidance Performance

Francis X. Brennan, Kevin D. Beck, Richard J. Servatius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Leverpress escape/avoidance is an excellent model for assessing coping in rats. Acquisition of the leverpress response is determined by the interstimulus (signal-shock) interval, as well as the type and duration of the aversive event. One factor that has received less research attention is the safety or feedback signal. The safety signal presumably negatively reinforces leverpress responding through fear reduction. Here, we present a parametric manipulation of safety signal length and avoidance performance. All rats were trained with a 60-s tone conditioned stimulus and an intermittent 1-s, 1.0-mA footshock. Training was further accomplished with a 1-, 2-, 4-, or 6-min safety signal. Acquisition of the avoidance response was comparable at all safety signal durations. Rats trained with the shortest safety signal (1 min) exhibited more leverpresses during the safe period, a measure of anxiety. Thus, acquisition of the leverpress avoidance response was efficient regardless of safety signal duration, even though shorter periods were associated with greater anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalIntegrative Physiological and Behavioral Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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