Endocrine and behavioral effects of airpuff-startle in rats

M. Engelmann, K. V. Thrivikraman, Y. Su, C. B. Nemeroff, A. Montkowski, R. Landgraf, F. Holsboer, P. M. Plotsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Adult male rats chronically implanted with cannulae in the jugular vein were used to characterize the endocrine and behavioral consequences of airpuff-startle. In the first series of experiments, resting animals subjected to three blocks of airpuff (blocks of three airpuffs each with each black separated by 1 min) showed a 10-fold increase in plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and corticosterone levels, indicating a significant but moderate activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis when compared with the untreated controls (n = 5 each). In the second series of experiments, monitoring of anxiety-related behavior in the defensive withdrawal paradigm revealed a significant increase in anxiety induced by airpuff-startle application compared with the untreated controls (n = 10 each). This behavioral effect, however, was not correlated with plasma hormone levels, as blood samples taken immediately before and 12 min after exposure to airpuff-startle and exposure to the defensive withdrawal paradigm showed a significant rise in ACTH and corticosterone in both groups. In summary, the findings of the present study indicate that airpuff-startle (1) is a potent stimulus in the activation of the HPA axis, and (2) increases anxiety-related behavior as measured in the defensive withdrawal paradigm. Furthermore, the results of our study support the hypothesis that peripheral endocrine parameters that are used to measure activation of the HPA axis do not necessarily correlate with behavioral data obtained in tests which are thought to measure anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenocorticotropin
  • Airpuff-startle
  • Anxiety-related behavior
  • Corticosterone
  • Defensive withdrawal
  • HPA axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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