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J Neurosci. 2002 Aug 1;22(15):6810-8.

Chronic stress induces contrasting patterns of dendritic remodeling in hippocampal and amygdaloid neurons.

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National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bangalore 560065, India.


The hippocampus and the amygdala are essential components of the neural circuitry mediating stress responses. The hippocampus, which provides negative feedback regulation of the stress response, is particularly vulnerable to degenerative changes caused by chronic stress. Unlike the hippocampus, relatively little is known about how stress affects the amygdala and the nature of its role in the stress response. Hence, we examined the effects of two different models of chronic stress on hippocampal and amygdaloid neuronal morphology in rats. In agreement with previous reports, chronic immobilization stress (CIS) induced dendritic atrophy and debranching in CA3 pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus. In striking contrast, pyramidal and stellate neurons in the basolateral complex of the amygdala exhibited enhanced dendritic arborization in response to the same CIS. Chronic unpredictable stress (CUS), however, had little effect on CA3 pyramidal neurons and induced atrophy only in BLA bipolar neurons. These results indicate that chronic stress can cause contrasting patterns of dendritic remodeling in neurons of the amygdala and hippocampus. Moreover, CIS, but not CUS, reduced open-arm activity in the elevated plus-maze. These findings raise the possibility that certain forms of chronic stress, by affecting specific neuronal elements in the amygdala, may lead to behavioral manifestations of enhanced emotionality. Thus, stress-induced structural plasticity in amygdala neurons may provide a candidate cellular substrate for affective disorders triggered by chronic stress.

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