Startle responses to electric shocks: Measurement of shock sensitivity and effects of morphine, buspirone and brain lesions

Der Yow Chen, Shao Hsuan Ho, K. C. Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The present study developed a new protocol to assess shock sensitivity in rats. Male Wistar rats were subjected to footshock stimuli ranging from 0 to 1.6 mA (0.1 s) in a startle apparatus and startle responses elicited by shocks were measured. Acoustic stimuli (95, 105, or 115 dB) were dispersed within the shock series serving as a control measurement of motor performance. Results indicated that the magnitude of shock startle responses significantly increased with the shock intensity in a linear trend. Morphine (8.0 mg/kg) and buspirone (1.0, 2.5, or 5.0 mg/kg), both of which possessing analgesic effects, depressed shock startle but had no such effect on acoustic startle. The effect of morphine was readily reversed by pretreatment of naloxone (1.0 mg/kg). To investigate the neural basis underlying this response, radio-frequency lesions of various structures implicated in processing of nociceptive or aversive information were undertaken. Lesions of the ventroposterior thalamic nucleus, insular cortex, or amygdala decreased startle reactivity to electric shocks but not to acoustic stimuli. Lesions of the anterior cingulate gyrus or medial prefrontal cortex, while altered the reactivity to acoustic stimuli, had no effect on the shock-elicited startle. These results suggested that the amplitude of startle in response to electric shocks provide a quantitative measurement of shock sensitivity within an extended range of stimulus intensities. Performing this response may engage the the central nociceptive pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-47
Number of pages13
JournalChinese Journal of Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000 Mar 31

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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