Rats were exposed to either a footshock stimulus (FS) or emotional stimulus (ES, forced perception of another rat receiving footshocks) during a daily 10-min session for 5 consecutive days. The consequences of FS and ES on their behavioural responsiveness were assessed at different post-stress intervals using a small open-field. FS induced a decrease in ambulation, rearing and sniffing and an increased immobility in the small open field. These effects were present in rats tested immediately after the last session and remained present for at least 15 days. In contrast, ES induced a transient decrease in ambulation and rearing immediately after the last session, but in the period from half an hour until at least 15 days after the stimulus experience, an increase in ambulation, rearing and sniffing was observed. Exposure to one footshock per session for 5 consecutive days or to 10 footshocks in a single session also resulted in a long-lasting reduction in ambulation and sniffing and an increase in immobility. The former regime did not influence the behavioural response of ES rats, but the latter resulted in an increase in ambulation, rearing and sniffing in ES rats. Naloxone (1 mg/kg s.c.) pretreatment antagonized the increased behavioural activity of the ES rats whereas the activity of control and FS animals was not affected, suggesting an involvement of endogenous opioid systems in the behavioural responses observed in ES rats. It is suggested that the behavioural responses of the ES and FS animals are regulated by different mechanisms.
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