Learned fear, emotional reactivity and fear of heights: a factor analytic map from a large F(2) intercross of Roman rat strains.
Aguilar R., Gil L., Flint J., Gray JA., Dawson GR., Driscoll P., Giménez-Llort L., Escorihuela RM., Fernández-Teruel A., Tobeña A.
Anxiety-related behaviours were evaluated across various tests in a 800 F(2)-intercross of the Roman high- and low-avoidance inbred rats. These tests either evoke unlearned (open field [OF]; plus-maze [PM]; hole-board [HB]; spontaneous activity [A]; and acoustic startle reflex [ASR]) or learned (classical fear conditioning [CFC]; and shuttlebox avoidance conditioning [SAC]), anxious/fearful responses. Using factor analysis (oblique rotation), we obtained a six-fold solution with 14 variables derived from all tests. These six factors represented SAC, CFC, PM anxiety, PM and OF activity, ASR anxiety, plus a mixed whole of anxious and activity variables (from OF and A), respectively. In searching for a smaller number of meaningful factors, we applied a three-factor solution that coherently corresponded with differentiated facets of fearfulness, rather than with the tests. Results showed that (1) measures of SAC and CFC strongly loaded onto Factor 1, labelled as "Learned Fear"; (2) a blend of almost all variables loaded onto Factor 2, called "Emotional Reactivity"; and (3) open arm behaviour in the PM loaded onto Factor 3, called "Fear of Heights." After discussing limitations of this apparently consistent behavioural map of anxiety, we advance some connections between those factors with quantitative trait loci candidates (genetic markers) as detected in the same sample.