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Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Jul;23(7):697-708. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2012.05.010. Epub 2012 Jun 27.

Social vs. environmental stress models of depression from a behavioural and neurochemical approach.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Navarra, 31080 Pamplona, Spain.


Major depression is a mental disorder often preceded by exposure to chronic stress or stressful life events. Recently, animal models based on social conflict such as chronic social defeat stress (CSDS) are proposed to be more relevant to stress-induced human psychopathology compared to environmental models like the chronic mild stress (CMS). However, while CMS reproduces specifically core depressive symptoms such as anhedonia and helplessness, CSDS studies rely on the analysis of stress-induced social avoidance, addressing different neuropsychiatric disorders. Here, we study comparatively the two models from a behavioural and neurochemical approach and their possible relevance to human depression. Mice (C57BL/6) were exposed to CMS or CSDS for six weeks and ten days. Anhedonia was periodically evaluated. A battery of test applied during the fourth week after the stress procedure included motor activity, memory, anxiety, social interaction and helplessness. Subsequently, we examined glutamate, GABA, 5-HT and dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and brainstem. CMS induced a clear depressive-like profile including anhedonia, helplessness and memory impairment. CSDS induced anhedonia, hyperactivity, anxiety and social avoidance, signs also common to anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorders. While both models disrupted the excitatory inhibitory balance in the prefrontal cortex, CMS altered importantly this balance in the brainstem. Moreover, CSDS decreased dopamine in the prefrontal cortex and brainstem. We suggests that while depressive-like behaviours might be associated to altered aminoacid neurotransmission in cortical and brain stem areas, CSDS induced anxiety behaviours might be linked to specific alteration of dopaminergic pathways involved in rewarding processes.

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