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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2007;31(4):558-84. Epub 2007 Feb 3.

PTSD and stress sensitisation: a tale of brain and body Part 2: animal models.

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Department of Pharmacology and Anatomy, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Animal models that are characterised by long-lasting conditioned fear responses as well as generalised behavioural sensitisation to novel stimuli following short-lasting but intense stress have a phenomenology that resembles that of PTSD in humans. These models include brief sessions of shocks, social confrontations, and a short sequence of different stressors. Subgroups of animals with different behavioural traits or coping styles during stress exposure show a different degree or pattern of long-term sensitisation. Weeks to months after the trauma, treated animals on average also show a sensitisation to novel stressful stimuli of neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal motility responses as well as altered pain sensitivity and immune function. Functional neuroanatomical and pharmacological studies in these animal models have provided evidence for involvement of amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex, and of brain stem areas regulating neuroendocrine and autonomic function and pain processing. They have also generated a number of neurotransmitter and neuropeptide targets that could provide novel avenues for treatment in PTSD.

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