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Behav Brain Res. 2010 Apr 2;208(2):553-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.12.041. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

The effects of chronic social defeat stress on mouse self-grooming behavior and its patterning.

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Department of Pharmacology, Tulane University Medical School, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Stress induced by social defeat is a strong modifier of animal anxiety and depression-like phenotypes. Self-grooming is a common rodent behavior, and has an ordered cephalo-caudal progression from licking of the paws to head, body, genitals and tail. Acute stress is known to alter grooming activity levels and disrupt its patterning. Following 15-17 days of chronic social defeat stress, grooming behavior was analyzed in adult male C57BL/6J mice exhibiting either dominant or subordinate behavior. Our study showed that subordinate mice experience higher levels of anxiety and display disorganized patterning of their grooming behaviors, which emerges as a behavioral marker of chronic social stress. These findings indicate that chronic social stress modulates grooming behavior in mice, thus illustrating the importance of grooming phenotypes for neurobehavioral stress research.

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