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Classical conditioning of breathing pattern after two acquisition trials in 2-day-old mice

The aim of the present study was to test whether breathing pattern conditioning may occur just after birth. We hypothesized that sensory stimuli signaling the resumption of maternal care after separation may trigger an arousal and/or orienting response accompanied with concomitant respiratory changes. We performed a conditioning experiment in 2-day-old mice by using an odor (lemon) as the conditioned stimulus (CS) and maternal care after 1 h without the mother as the unconditioned stimulus (US). Each pup underwent two acquisition trials, in which the CS was presented immediately before (experimental paired group, n = 30) or 30 min before (control unpaired group, n = 30) contact with the mother. Conditioning was tested by using noninvasive whole body plethysmography to measure the respiratory response to the CS for 1 min. We found significantly stronger respiratory responses to the CS in the experimental group than in the control group. In contrast, somatomotor activity did not differ significantly between groups. Our results confirm the sensitivity of breathing to conditioning and indirectly support the hypothesis that learned feedforward processes may complement feedback pathways during postnatal maturation of respiratory control.



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