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This study aimed to assess fear responses to a novel object while experiencing a noxious event to determine whether nociception or fear will dominate attention in a fish in novel object testing paradigm. This experimentally tractable animal model was used to investigate (1) the degree of neophobia to a novel object while experiencing noxious stimulation, (2) the response of the fish after removing the fear-causing event by using a familiar object, and (3) the effects of removing the nociceptive response by morphine administration and examining the response to a novel object. Control animals displayed a classic fear response to the novel objects and spent most of their time moving away from this stimulus, as well as showing an increase in respiration rate when the novel object was presented. In contrast, noxiously stimulated animals spent most of their time in close proximity to the novel object and showed no additional increase in respiration rate to novel object presentation. There was evidence of a slight hypoalgesia in noxiously stimulated animals. The responses to familiar objects demonstrated that by familiarizing the animal with the object, fear was removed from the experiment. Both control and noxiously treated animals responded in similar ways to a novel object by spending the majority of their time in close proximity. Treatment with morphine reduced effects of noxious stimulation and appears to be an effective analgesic. After morphine administration, the acid-injected animals showed a neophobic response to a novel object and this was similar to the response of the control fish, with a similar amount of time spent moving away from the object and an increase in ventilation in response to the novel object. Morphine affected the fear response because both groups approached the novel object more quickly than the non-morphine controls. These results suggest that nociception captures the animal’s attention with only a relatively small amount of attention directed at responding to the fear of the novel object.


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