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Defeat is a major stressor in males while social instability is stressful mainly in females: Towards the development of a social stress model in female rats

Defeat is a major stressor in males while social instability is stressful mainly in females: Towards the development of a social stress model in female rats

Brain Research Bulletin 50(1): 33-39

Social stress models appear useful in elucidating the interrelationship between stress, mood disorders, and drug efficacy. However, reliable social stress models for females are virtually lacking. The aim of this study was to determine stress-related consequences of (a) defeat in aggressive encounters and (b) social instability, in male and female rats. Defeat in male and female subjects was induced by aggressive male residents and female residents made aggressive by surgery (mediobasal hypothalamic lesion [MBHL]), respectively. Aggressiveness of resident males and resident MBHL females was remarkably similar. Alternating isolation and mixed-sex crowding phases with membership rotation were used to induce social instability. Aggression was kept low in the latter paradigm by manipulating crowding group composition. Defeat stress reduced weight gain, and increased both adrenals and plasma corticosterone in males. Only adrenal weight was affected in females. Social instability reduced weight gain, and induced thymus involution, adrenal hypertrophy and elevated plasma corticosterone levels in females. Only weight gain and thymus weights were affected in males. It is concluded that defeat stresses males more than females, while social instability is more stressful for females than for males, if aggressive contacts are low. It is suggested that the social instability model is a good model of social stress in females.

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Accession: 010420349

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 10507469

DOI: 10.1016/s0361-9230(99)00087-8

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