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Stress. 2013 Jul;16(4):469-76. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2013.791276. Epub 2013 May 13.

Sex-specific impairment of spatial memory in rats following a reminder of predator stress.

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1
Department of Psychology and Sociology, Raabe College of Pharmacy, Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH 45810, USA.

Abstract

It has been suggested that cognitive impairments exhibited by people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) result from intrusive, flashback memories transiently interfering with ongoing cognitive processing. Researchers have further speculated that females are more susceptible to developing PTSD because they form stronger traumatic memories than males, hence females may be more sensitive to the negative effects of intrusive memories on cognition. We have examined how the reminder of a naturalistic stress experience would affect rat spatial memory and if sex was a contributing factor to such effects. Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed, without contact, to an adult female cat for 30 min. Five weeks later, the rats were trained to locate a hidden platform in the radial-arm water maze and given a single long-term memory test trial 24 h later. Before long-term memory testing, the rats were given a 30-min reminder of the cat exposure experienced 5 weeks earlier. The results indicated that the stress reminder impaired spatial memory in the female rats only. Control manipulations revealed that this effect was not attributable to the original cat exposure adversely impacting learning that occurred 5 weeks later, or to merely exposing rats to a novel environment or predator-related cues immediately before testing. These findings provide evidence that the reminder of a naturalistic stressful experience can impair cognitive processing in rats; moreover, since female rats were more susceptible to the memory-impairing effects of the stress reminder, the findings could lend insight into the existing sex differences in susceptibility to PTSD.

PMID:
23550585
DOI:
10.3109/10253890.2013.791276
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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