Increased emotionality is a characteristic of human adolescence, but its animal models are limited. Here we report that generalization of auditory conditioned fear between a conditional stimulus (CS+) and a novel auditory stimulus is stronger in 4-5-wk-old mice (juveniles) than in their 9-10-wk-old counterparts (adults), whereas nonassociative sensitization induced by foot shock (US) and the ability to discriminate CS+ from an explicitly unpaired stimulus (CS-) are not dependent on age. These results suggest that aversive associations are less precise in juvenile mice and can more easily produce conditional responses to stimuli different from CS+. Yet, through the explicit unpairing of CS- from US during training, juveniles are able to overcome this greater fear generalization and learn that CS- is not associated with foot shock.
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