Send to

Choose Destination
Neuropharmacology. 2012 Feb;62(2):565-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024. Epub 2011 Mar 9.

Overlapping neurobiology of learned helplessness and conditioned defeat: implications for PTSD and mood disorders.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Vermont, 2 Colchester Avenue, John Dewey Hall, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.


Exposure to traumatic events can increase the risk for major depressive disorder (MDD) as well as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and pharmacological treatments for these disorders often involve the modulation of serotonergic (5-HT) systems. Several behavioral paradigms in rodents produce changes in behavior that resemble symptoms of MDD and these behavioral changes are sensitive to antidepressant treatments. Here we review two animal models in which MDD-like behavioral changes are elicited by exposure to an acute traumatic event during adulthood, learned helplessness (LH) and conditioned defeat. In LH, exposure of rats to inescapable, but not escapable, tailshock produces a constellation of behavioral changes that include deficits in fight/flight responding and enhanced anxiety-like behavior. In conditioned defeat, exposure of Syrian hamsters to a social defeat by a more aggressive animal leads to a loss of territorial aggression and an increase in submissive and defensive behaviors in subsequent encounters with non-aggressive conspecifics. Investigations into the neural substrates that control LH and conditioned defeat revealed that increased 5-HT activity in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) is critical for both models. Other key brain regions that regulate the acquisition and/or expression of behavior in these two paradigms include the basolateral amygdala (BLA), central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). In this review, we compare and contrast the role of each of these neural structures in mediating LH and conditioned defeat, and discuss the relevance of these data in developing a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying trauma-related depression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center