Age, sex and strain differences in activity and habituation in SHR and WKY Rats

Edith D. Hendley, Diane J. Wessel, Donna G. Atwater, Janice Gellis, David Whitehorn, Walter C. Low

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54 Scopus citations


The highly inbred strain of Wistar-Kyoto spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) and its normotensive, genetic control (WKY) were examined with respect to strain differences in spontaneous activity scores in a novel environment (small activity cage) and in ability to habituate to that environment. These behaviors were examined in experimentally naive rats, 197 SHR and WKY, males and females, at varying ages from 4 to 56 weeks, in order to determine whether there are sex and age differences in addition to the well-known strain differences in these behaviors. Total activity scores, determined in a 15 min test in the activity cage, were higher in SHR than WKY rats; females were significantly more active than males in either strain, and activity scores varied significantly with age both within strains and between strains. Ability to habituate to the test cage was determined by repeating the 15 min activity test at hourly intervals for three additional trials on the same day. The results indicate that the SHR, males and females and at all ages tested, habituate poorly if at all to the test cage as compared with WKY rats. Moreover, despite the variability of baseline activity scores (first trial) observed across ages, sexes and strains, the habituation patterns of either strain remained relatively fixed throughout the first year of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-383
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1985

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supportedb y Vermont Heart Association Grants-in-Ai(dE DH, DW), USPHS GrantsM H36064a nd5 429-19-18 (EDH), HL24110( DW),and F32-HL0633(9W CL). Dr. Bruce Chalrnerg ave invaluableh elp in computeru se and statistical analysisa, ndJ oan Risinga ndElise Egerterg avee xpertt echnical assistance.


  • Age
  • Habituation
  • SHR
  • Sex
  • Spontaneous activity
  • Strain differences
  • WKY


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