This study was conducted to examine the psycho-emotional effects of repeated oral exposure to capsaicin, the principal active component of chili peppers. Each rat received 1 mL of 0.02% capsaicin into its oral cavity daily, and was subjected to behavioural tests following 10 daily administrations of capsaicin. Stereotypy counts and rostral grooming were significantly increased, and caudal grooming decreased, in capsaicin-treated rats during the ambulatory activity test. In elevated plus maze test, not only the time spent in open arms but also the percent arm entry into open arms was reduced in capsaicin-treated rats compared with control rats. In forced swim test, although swimming duration was decreased, struggling increased in the capsaicin group, immobility duration did not differ between the groups. Repeated oral capsaicin did not affect the basal levels of plasma corticosterone; however, the stress-induced elevation of plasma corticosterone was prolonged in capsaicin treated rats. Oral capsaicin exposure significantly increased c-Fos expression not only in the nucleus tractus of solitarius but also in the paraventricular nucleus. Results suggest that repeated oral exposure to capsaicin increases anxiety-like behaviours in rats, and dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis may play a role in its pathophysiology.
Volume 47, 2022
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