Effects of sex hormones on associative learning in spontaneously hypertensive rats

David J. Bucci, Michael E. Hopkins, Antonio A. Nunez, S. Marc Breedlove, Cheryl L. Sisk, Joel T. Nigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Pavlovian conditioning of a visual stimulus paired with food was examined in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), which are a commonly used model for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and in Wistar rats (normoactive control). In gonadally intact rats of both strains, males spent more time in the food cup following onset of the light than did females, indicating a stronger association of the conditioned stimulus (CS) with reward. Gonadectomy carried out in adulthood affected conditioning differently in the two strains. In Wistar rats, gonadectomy had no effect on conditioned responding in females, but reduced conditioned responding in males, effectively eliminating the sex difference in behavior. This result suggests that circulating androgens in male Wistar rats normally aid conditioning in this task. In contrast, gonadectomy enhanced conditioning in both sexes in the SHR rats, indicating that androgens and/or estrogens impair conditioned associations in this strain. These data indicate that gonadal steroids can influence conditioning in rats and that the valence of steroid action on this behavior is strain-dependent. To the extent that SHR serves as a model of ADHD in humans, the influence of steroids on associative learning may play a role in the expression of ADHD-like behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-657
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 27 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Gonadal steroids
  • Gonadectomy
  • SHR
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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