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A new way to fear: Lady lab rats raise important questions for behavioral research

Not all lab rats, it seems, are created equal. When Tina Gruene of Northeastern University’s Shansky Lab noticed that her female rat subjects often reacted very differently than males to conditioned fear, she knew she’d stumbled upon a very important quandary.

In the past, female rats have been considered less reliable test subjects—largely due to their ever-changing hormonal cycles. As a result, the different fear reactions of females had not been closely considered… until now.

CSHL’s associate professor Stephen Shea, Ph.D. helped Dr. Rebecca Shansky and her team measure female fear responses with a brand-new computer algorithm, showing that behavioral differences between sexes can prove much more drastic than many experts would imagine.

What will this mean for the future of behavioral research? Only time will tell.

Check out our video above and the full ELife paper to learn more!

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