Failure to produce conditioning with low-dose trimethylthiazoline or cat feces as unconditioned stimuli

D. Caroline Blanchard, Chris Markham, Mu Yang, David Hubbard, Eric Madarang, Robert J. Blanchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Trimethylthiazoline (TMT), a derivative of fox feces, has been reported to fail to produce aversive conditioning as an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) when presented in large amounts (I. S. McGregor, L. Schrama, P. Ambermoon, & R. A. Dielenberg, 2002). Experiment 1 evaluated very low TMT levels that nonetheless produced defensive behaviors in rats during exposure. Although each level (0.01, 0.05, and 0.10 μl TMT) produced significant change in defensiveness, none resulted in significant changes the following day in the absence of TMT. Experiment 2 evaluated cat urine, cat feces, and cat fur/skin odor against a no-odor control. Urine produced no significant changes, but feces and fur/skin odors elicited virtually identical changes in defensive behaviors during exposure. When tested the next day in the absence of odor, the fur/skin odor-exposed group showed significant differences on the same behaviors as during exposure, but the feces-exposed group showed no differences on any measure. Results suggest that lack of conditioning to TMT may relate to the type of predator odor rather than the amount, predator species, or possible lack of odor components in TMT that are present in natural feces. Predator feces may also be less effective as a UCS because they are poorly predictive of the actual presence of the predator, suggesting the need for a reevaluation of UCS functions in aversive conditioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-368
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology


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