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Horm Behav. 2003 Jan;43(1):158-65.

Facilitation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to novel stress following repeated social stress using the resident/intruder paradigm.

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Department of Psychology and the Neuroscience Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109, USA.


Our goal in these studies was to characterize some specific aspects of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity in rats exposed to repeated social stress. We used a modification of the resident/intruder paradigm in which male intruder rats were subjected to defeat and then separated from the resident by an enclosure for a total of 30 min on Day 1. On Days 2-7, intruder rats were exposed to different resident rats every day through a wire mesh enclosure for 30 min in order to minimize injurious physical contact between the two rats. The intruder rats gained significantly less weight than controls over the 7-day period of stress though basal corticosterone levels and adrenal and thymus weights were not significantly different between the two groups. On Day 8, repeatedly stressed rats exhibited facilitation of HPA responses to novel restraint compared to controls but no differences in negative feedback sensitivity to dexamethasone (0.05 or 0.2 mg/kg) were observed. Thus, the HPA axis of socially stressed rats remains responsive to a stimulus that has never been encountered. Using this type of repeated presentation to an aggressive resident allows us to examine the neuroendocrine and behavioral consequences, and their underlying neural mechanisms, of exposure to a stressor that is social in nature and naturalistic for rodents.

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