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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Aug;39(9):2114-30. doi: 10.1038/npp.2014.60. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

Distinct effects of repeated restraint stress on basolateral amygdala neuronal membrane properties in resilient adolescent and adult rats.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Chicago Medical School, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL, USA.


Severe and repeated stress has damaging effects on health, including initiation of depression and anxiety. Stress that occurs during development has long-lasting and particularly damaging effects on emotion. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) plays a key role in many affective behaviors, and repeated stress causes different forms of BLA hyperactivity in adolescent and adult rats. However, the mechanism is not known. Furthermore, not every individual is susceptible to the negative consequences of stress. Differences in the effects of stress on the BLA might contribute to determine whether an individual will be vulnerable or resilient to the effects of stress on emotion. The purpose of this study is to test the cellular underpinnings for age dependency of BLA hyperactivity after stress, and whether protective changes occur in resilient individuals. To test this, the effects of repeated stress on membrane excitability and other membrane properties of BLA principal neurons were compared between adult and adolescent rats, and between vulnerable and resilient rats, using in vitro whole-cell recordings. Vulnerability was defined by adrenal gland weight, and verified by body weight gain after repeated restraint stress, and fecal pellet production during repeated restraint sessions. We found that repeated stress increased the excitability of BLA neurons, but in a manner that depended on age and BLA subnucleus. Furthermore, stress resilience was associated with an opposite pattern of change, with increased slow afterhyperpolarization (AHP) potential, whereas vulnerability was associated with decreased medium AHP. The opposite outcomes in these two populations were further distinguished by differences of anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze that were correlated with BLA neuronal excitability and AHP. These results demonstrate a substrate for BLA hyperactivity after repeated stress, with distinct membrane properties to target, as well as age-dependent factors that contribute to resilience to the effects of stress.

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