A behavioral technique was developed that allowed the onset and recovery of tinnitus to be measured in individual rats treated with different doses of salicylate. Food-restricted rats were self-trained to lick for water during the time between scheduled delivery of food pellets, i.e., schedule-induced polydipsia (SIP). SIP-induced licking was placed under stimulus control by administering foot shock if licks occurred when sound (one of six stimuli, 40 dB SPL) was present; rats were allowed to lick during quiet. After the number of licks-in-quiet (correct response) exceeded 90% of total licks, rats were treated with saline and four different doses of salicylate (50, 100, 150 and 350 mg/kg, intraperitoneally (i.p.); 2 days). Performance was assessed before, during and after treatment. Licks-in-sound remained extremely low with saline and all four salicylate doses indicating that the sounds were audible under all treatment conditions. Licks-in-quiet remained high during the saline control and 50 mg/kg dose of salicylate, behavior consistent with the absence of tinnitus. However, licks-in-quiet showed a statistically significant decline with the 150 and 350 mg/kg dose, behavior consistent with the presence of tinnitus. Licks-in-quiet gradually recovered to baseline level 2-3 days following high-dose salicylate treatments, behavior consistent with the gradual disappearance of tinnitus. The salicylate dose needed to induce tinnitus and the length of recovery are consistent with previous reports, providing support for the method. The ability to obtain sequential estimates of tinnitus-like behavior in an animal after administering a tinnitus-inducing agent could aid in understanding the underlying neural mechanisms and assessing potential treatments.
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