The use of a novel predator-tradeoff test to characterize anxiety-like behavior and changes in anxiety-related transcripts in the optic tectum of African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis)



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Anxiety disorders are modulated through several different pathways, but when it comes to visually triggered anxiety it is modulated primarily through two main pathways, a cortical, consciously aware pathway and a subcortical, subconscious pathway. While the cortical pathway has been extensively studied, the subcortical system remains relatively understudied due the difficulty in accessing and isolating the subcortical brain regions. Anurans may potentially represent a new model species to study the role of the subcortical system in anxiety disorders as its primary pathway for threat detection and response is homologous to the subcortical route in higher vertebrates. Therefore, this dissertation tests the hypothesis that a novel predator tradeoff test, will induce changes in food intake, anxiety-like behavior and transcription of anxiety-related transcripts in the optic tectum, a homolog for the main relay point for the subcortical system. We evaluate this hypothesis using three different sets of experiments. The first set will evaluate the effect the predator tradeoff test has on anurans. The second set will evaluate the efficacy of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) on reversing the anxietyrelated changes. The third set of experiments will evaluate the efficacy of a nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic on reversing the anxiety-related changes. These experiments will be crucial to evaluate the utility of using anurans in future studies that seek to understand pathophysiology of subcortical anxiety.

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Xenopus Laevis, Anxiety, Predator Tradeoff, Optic Tectum, Feeding