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Behav Genet. 1997 Nov;27(6):503-12.

Neuroendocrine correlates of emotional reactivity and coping in male rats from the Roman high (RHA/Verh)- and low (RLA/Verh)-avoidance lines.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, HUG, Geneva, Switzerland.


The Roman high (RHA/Verh)- and low (RLA/Verh)-avoidance rats, originally selected and bred for rapid vs. poor acquisition of a two-way active avoidance response, differ in emotional reactivity and sensitivity to stressors in various other test situations. These behavioral differences are associated with particular neuroendocrine and neurochemical characteristics. The aim of this short review is to present data currently available on the neuroendocrine profiles of RHA/Verh and RLA/Verh rats, together with more recent findings which suggest that differences in peripheral and central hormonal responses, and in hormone action on the brain, may be closely related to emotional reactivity and coping ability. Although genetic factors certainly play a major role, there is also evidence that epigenetic factors, e.g., early environmental influences, can modulate the phenotypic expression of the basic behavioral and neuroendocrine traits characterizing these lines. These psychogenetically selected lines can therefore be used as a model to investigate interactions between genes and the environment in determining each individual's sensitivity to stress and coping abilities ("vulnerability" model). This model may prove particularly useful for studies on the etiology and pathophysiology of anxiety and affective disorders and their neuroendocrine correlates.

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