Variability in empathic fear response among 11 inbred strains of mice

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Empathy is an important emotional process that involves the ability to recognize and share emotions with others. We have previously developed an observational fear learning (OFL) behavioral assay to measure empathic fear in mice. In the OFL task, a mouse is conditioned for context-dependent fear when it observes a conspecific demonstrator receiving aversive stimuli. In the present study, by comparing 11 different inbred mouse strains that are commonly used in the laboratory, we found that empathic fear response was highly variable between different strains. Five strains-C57BL/6J, C57BL/6NTac, 129S1/SvImJ, 129S4/SvJae and BTBRT+ Itpr3(tf)/J-showed observational fear (OF) responses, whereas AKR/J, BALB/cByJ, C3H/HeJ, DBA/2J, FVB/NJ and NOD/ShiLtJ mice exhibited low empathic fear response. Importantly, day 2 OF memory was significantly correlated with contextual memory in the classical fear conditioning among the 11 strains. Innate differences in anxiety, locomotor activity, sociability and preference for social novelty were not significantly correlated with OFL. Interestingly, early adolescent C57BL/6J mice exhibited an increase in acquisition of OF. The level of OFL in C57BL/6J strain was not affected by sex or strains of the demonstrator. Taken together, these data strongly suggest that there are naturally occurring OFL-specific genetic variations modulating empathic fear behaviors in mice. The identification of causal genes may uncover novel genetic pathways and underlying neural mechanisms that modulate empathic fear and, ultimately, provide new targets for therapeutic intervention in human mental disorders associated with impaired empathy.
Publisher
WILEY-BLACKWELL
Issue Date
2016-02
Language
English
Article Type
Article
Keywords

MOUSE STRAINS; EMOTIONAL CONTAGION; SOCIAL APPROACH; BRAIN NETWORKS; DBA/2 MICE; BEHAVIOR; AUTISM; PAIN; PHENOTYPES; ANXIETY

Citation

GENES BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR, v.15, no.2, pp.231 - 242

ISSN
1601-1848
DOI
10.1111/gbb.12278
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10203/207665
Appears in Collection
BiS-Journal Papers(저널논문)
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