Estrogen treatment can suppress the intake of a previously presented gustatory conditioned stimulus (CS). This finding has been interpreted as an estrogen-induced conditioned taste aversion. However, a distinction must be made between taste aversion and taste avoidance. In particular, tastes are only considered aversive if they elicit a stereotypic behavioral response, otherwise the reduction in intake is classified as an avoidance. Although aversive orofacial responses have been reported in male rats after taste - estrogen pairings, they have not been examined in ovariectomized female rats. The goal of the present investigation, then, was to use similar procedures to determine whether conditioned aversion also mediates the estrogen - induced reduction of intake in female rats. Animals were introduced to a novel 0.1% saccharin solution and immediately thereafter were given a subcutaneous injection of vehicle or estradiol benzoate (10 μg). Responses were assessed using a two-bottle preference test, a one-bottle acceptance test, and a taste reactivity (TR) test. The results confirmed previous reports of a reduced preference for saccharin after saccharin - estradiol pairing using the two-bottle test. The reduction in intake during the one-bottle test, however, was not accompanied by stereotypic aversive responses, such as gaping. Surprisingly, a similar reduction in intake also occurred when using a backward conditioning procedure in which estrogen was injected before, rather than after, CS access. Thus, the present results show that the suppressive effects of estrogen reflect an avoidance, rather than aversion and, moreover, that the reduced intake may be due to an unconditioned, rather than a conditioned, response.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience