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Physiol Behav. 2012 Jan 18;105(2):568-75. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.06.011. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Evidence for a lack of phasic inhibitory properties of habituated stressors on HPA axis responses in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and Center for Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, United States. masinic@colorado.edu


This experiment tested the hypothesis that habituation to repeated stressor exposures is produced by phasic inhibitory influence on the neural circuitry that normally drives the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and subsequently the adrenocortical hormone response to psychological stress. Such a process would be expected to lower the acute response to a novel stressor when experienced concurrently with a habituated stressor. Rats were exposed to restraint or no stress conditions for 14 consecutive days. On the 15th day, the rats were exposed to the control condition (no stress), acute restraint, loud noise, or restraint and loud noise concurrently. Blood was taken and assayed for ACTH and corticosterone and brains were collected to examine c-fos messenger RNA expression in several brain areas. As predicted, the rats that received the same (homotypic) stressor repeatedly and again on the test day displayed low levels of ACTH and corticosterone, similar to the control conditions (i.e., showed habituation). All rats that received a single novel stressor on the test day, regardless of prior stress history, exhibited high levels of ACTH and corticosterone. The rats that received two novel stressors also displayed high levels of ACTH and corticosterone, but little evidence of additivity was observed. Importantly, when a novel stressor was concurrently given with a habituated stressor on the test day, no reduction of HPA axis response was observed when compared to previously habituated rats given only the novel stressor on the test day. In general, c-fos mRNA induction in several stress responsive brain areas followed the same patterns as the ACTH and corticosterone data. These data suggest that habituation of the adrenocortical hormone response to psychological stressors is not mediated by phasic inhibition of the effector system.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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