Physiology & Behavior, August, 2014, Vol.135, p.98(6)
To link to full-text access for this article, visit this link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.05.036 Byline: Doruk Golcu, Rahiwa Z. Gebre, Robert M. Sapolsky Abstract: The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) manipulates the behavior of its rodent intermediate host to facilitate its passage to its feline definitive host. This is accomplished by a reduction of the aversive response that rodents show towards cat odors, which likely increases the predation risk. Females on average show similar changes as males. However, behaviors that relate to aversion and attraction are usually strongly influenced by the estrus cycle. In this study, we replicated behavioral effects of T. gondii in female rats, as well as expanded it to two novel behavioral paradigms. We also characterized the role of the estrus cycle in the behavioral effects of T. gondii on female rats. Uninfected females preferred to spend more time in proximity to rabbit rather than bobcat urine, and in a dark chamber rather than a lit chamber. Infected females lost both of these preferences, and also spent more time investigating social novelty (foreign bedding in their environment). Taken together, these data suggest that infection makes females less risk averse and more exploratory. Furthermore, this effect was influenced by the estrus cycle. Uninfected rats preferred rabbit urine to bobcat urine throughout the cycle except at estrus and metestrus. In contrast, infected rats lost this preference at every stage of the cycle except estrus. Commensurate with the possibility that this was a hormone-dependent effect, infected rats had elevated levels of circulating progesterone, a known anxiolytic. Article History: Received 25 March 2013; Revised 14 April 2014; Accepted 28 May 2014
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