Sexually dimorphic behavioral and neural responses to a predator scent

Jennifer A. Francesconi, Cathleen Macaroy, Shreeya Sawant, Haleigh Hamrick, Sameerah Wahab, Ilana Klein, John P. McGann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Male and female C57BL/6 J mice were tested on the predator odor response task, where they needed to cross through a chamber of scented bedding to reach a sucrose reward. Following the behavioral testing, mouse brains were immunohistochemically labeled for expression of the immediate early gene c-fos. In the presence of the novel odorant methyl valerate (MV), both males and females exhibited increased exploration behaviors and delayed rewards compared to control bedding. However, in the presence of the predator odor phenylethylamine (PEA), males exhibited increased exploration that strongly resembled their behavior in MV (a non-predator odor) while females behaved very similarly to the clean bedding controls, quickly traversing the chamber to achieve the reward. Expression of c-fos exhibited significant sex by odor condition interactions overall across brain regions and in the anterior piriform cortex, cingulate cortex, and dorsomedial hypothalamus specifically. In all three regions we observed the general pattern that PEA exposure evoked elevated c-fos expression in females but suppressed c-fos expression in males. Taken together these data suggest that males and females may adopt different behavioral strategies in the presence of predator threat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112467
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Mar 16 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Approach-avoidance
  • Predator odor
  • Sexual dimorphism


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