, Volume 114, Issue 1, pp 101–108 | Cite as

Diazepam withdrawal: effects of diazepam and gepirone on acoustic startle-induced 22 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations

  • Jeffrey A. Vivian
  • William J. Farrell
  • Scott B. Sapperstein
  • Klaus A. Miczek
Original Investigations


It has proven difficult to demonstrate and study the “anxiogenic” quality of drug withdrawal states in animals. Ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) in response to acoustic startle stimuli have shown promise as a measure of affect and may represent “distress” responses during diazepam withdrawal. Three experiments evaluated the association between USV and “distress” by comparing the effects of diazepam as a prototypic benzodiazepine agonist and the putative anxiolytic gepirone with affinity for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT1A) receptors in naive and diazepam-withdrawn subjects. Adult male Long-Evans rats were exposed to acoustic startle sessions consisting of nine 105 dB and nine 115 dB stimuli. USV at 20–30 kHz were readily emitted during startle and often commenced after the third or fourth stimulus presentation. Acutely, intraperitoneal (IP) administration of diazepam (0.1–3 mg/kg) and gepirone (0.1–1 mg/kg) decreased USV dose-dependently without affecting the startle reflex; gepirone also decreased tail flick latency. Startle-induced USV were also sensitive to the “anxiogenic” effects of withdrawal from diazepam exposure (0, 2.5, 5, 10 mg/kg b.i.d. IP×5 days). Twenty-four hours after the last diazepam injection, rats were hyperreactive to startle stimuli and doubled their rate of USV over vehicle-treated controls. Gepirone (0.1–1 mg/kg IP), but not diazepam (3–20 mg/kg IP) antagonized the increased rate of USV in rats withdrawn from 10 mg/kg b.i.d. diazepam. Diazepam (2.5–10 mg/kg IP) antagonized the increased rate of USV in rats withdrawn from 2.5 mg/kg b.i.d. diazepam. USV induced by acoustic startle stimuli are sensitive to the anxiolytic effects of benzodiazepine and 5-HT1A receptor agonists and permit the assessment of the “anxiogenic” properties of diazepam withdrawal. The potent effect of gepirone on USV suggests a serotonergic amelioration of the “anxiogenic” aspects of diazepam withdrawal.

Key words

Acoustic startle Affect Analgesia Anxiolytics Diazepam Gepirone Thermoregulation Ultrasonic vocalization Withdrawal 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey A. Vivian
    • 1
  • William J. Farrell
    • 1
  • Scott B. Sapperstein
    • 1
  • Klaus A. Miczek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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