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Physiol Behav. 2017 Oct 1;179:153-161. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.06.003. Epub 2017 Jun 9.

Dominance status alters restraint-induced neural activity in brain regions controlling stress vulnerability.

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Department of Psychology, NeuroNET Research Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0900, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, NeuroNET Research Center, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-0900, United States.


Understanding the cellular mechanisms that control resistance and vulnerability to stress is an important step toward identifying novel targets for the prevention and treatment of stress-related mental illness. In Syrian hamsters, dominant and subordinate animals exhibit different behavioral and physiological responses to social defeat stress, with dominants showing stress resistance and subordinates showing stress vulnerability. We previously found that dominant and subordinate hamsters show different levels of defeat-induced neural activity in brain regions that modulate coping with stress, although the extent to which status-dependent differences in stress vulnerability generalize to non-social stressors is unknown. In this study, dominant, subordinate, and control male Syrian hamsters were exposed to acute physical restraint for 30min and restraint-induced c-Fos immunoreactivity was quantified in select brain regions. Subordinate animals showed less restraint-induced c-Fos immunoreactivity in the infralimbic (IL), prelimbic (PL), and ventral medial amygdala (vMeA) compared to dominants, which is consistent with the status-dependent effects of social defeat stress. Subordinate animals did not show increased c-Fos immunoreactivity in the rostroventral dorsal raphe nucleus (rvDRN), which is in contrast to the effects of social defeat stress. These findings indicate that status-dependent changes in neural activity generalize from one stressor to another in a brain region-dependent manner. These findings further suggest that while some neural circuits may support a generalized form of stress resistance, others may provide resistance to specific stressors.


Anxiety; Coping; Dorsal raphe nucleus; Medial amygdala; Resilience; Social dominance

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