Physiology & behavior

The benzodiazepine brotizolam reduces fear in calves exposed to a novel object test.

PMID 18996404


The present study examined the effects of the intravenous administration of the anxiolytic drug brotizolam on the behavioral and physiological responsiveness of calves to novelty in a dose response fashion. Holstein Friesian heifer calves (39-41 weeks of age; body weight 200-300 kg) received an intravenous injection of either a vehicle control (12 calves) or one of four doses of brotizolam (8 calves per dose): 0.0125, 0.05, 0.2 and 0.8 mg/100 kg body weight. They were then individually subjected to a 'combined' test involving exposure to a novel environment (open field, OF) for 5 min followed by the sudden introduction of a novel object (NO) that remained in place for a further 10 min. Behavioral, heart rate and plasma cortisol responses were recorded in all animals. Compared to vehicle treatment, the highest dose of brotizolam dose-dependently and significantly increased the time spent in locomotion and the distance travelled near the NO, as well as the time spent in contact with the NO. In addition, post-test plasma cortisol concentrations changed in a dose-dependent manner over time: they decreased between 0 and 10 min after the test in calves that had received the two highest doses of brotizolam, whereas they increased in vehicle-treated and low-dosage calves. There were no effects of brotizolam on vocalization or locomotion during the OF phase of the test or on vocalization following introduction of the NO. These findings strongly support the notion that interaction with a novel object in a novel arena represents a behavioral index of fear and fearfulness in calves, and that vocalization and locomotion in an OF reflect other independent characteristics.