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Stress. 2011 Sep;14(5):481-97. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2011.604751.

Stress risk factors and stress-related pathology: neuroplasticity, epigenetics and endophenotypes.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA.


This paper highlights a symposium on stress risk factors and stress susceptibility, presented at the Neurobiology of Stress workshop in Boulder, CO, in June 2010. This symposium addressed factors linking stress plasticity and reactivity to stress pathology in animal models and in humans. Dr. J. Radley discussed studies demonstrating prefrontal cortical neuroplasticity and prefrontal control of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis function in rats, highlighting the emerging evidence of the critical role that this region plays in normal and pathological stress integration. Dr. M. Kabbaj summarized his studies of possible epigenetic mechanisms underlying behavioral differences in rat populations bred for differential stress reactivity. Dr. L. Jacobson described studies using a mouse model to explore the diverse actions of antidepressants in brain, suggesting mechanisms whereby antidepressants may be differentially effective in treating specific depression endophenotypes. Dr. R. Yehuda discussed the role of glucocorticoids in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), indicating that low cortisol level may be a trait that predisposes the individual to development of the disorder. Furthermore, she presented evidence indicating that traumatic events can have transgenerational impact on cortisol reactivity and development of PTSD symptoms. Together, the symposium highlighted emerging themes regarding the role of brain reorganization, individual differences, and epigenetics in determining stress plasticity and pathology.

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