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J Neurochem. 2001 Dec;79(6):1113-21.

Long-term behavioral and neurochemical effects of chronic stress exposure in rats.

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Department of Neuroscience, Università di Siena, Siena, Italy.


Rats exposed to acute unavoidable stress develop a deficit in escaping avoidable aversive stimuli that lasts as long as unavoidable stress exposure is repeated. A 3-week exposure to unavoidable stress also reduces dopamine (DA) output in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAcS). This study showed that a 7-day exposure to unavoidable stress induced in rats an escape deficit and a decrease in extraneuronal DA basal concentration in the NAcS. Moreover, animals had reduced DA and serotonin (5-HT) accumulation after cocaine administration in the medial pre-frontal cortex (mPFC) and NAcS, compared with control animals. After a 3-week exposure to unavoidable stress, escape deficit and reduced DA output in the NAcS were still significant at day 14 after the last stress administration. In the mPFC we observed: (i) a short-term reduction in DA basal levels that was back to control values at day 14; (ii) a decrease in DA accumulation at day 3 followed by a significant increase beyond control values at day 14; (iii) a significant reduction in 5-HT extraneuronal basal levels at day 3, but not at day 14. Finally, a significant decrease in 5-HT accumulation following cocaine administration was present in the NAcS and mPFC at day 3, but not at day 14. In conclusion, a long-term stress exposure induced long-lasting behavioral sequelae associated with reproducible neurochemical modifications.

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