Project 5

Chronic psychosocial stress and long-term effects on anxiety: the role of the autonomic nervous system and of the visual contact

Chronic stress, in particular chronic psychosocial stress, is a risk factor in the etiology of various psychopathologies including general and social anxiety-related disorders. However, despite substantial research efforts in the last decades, the etiology of such stress-associated disorders remains poorly understood. As we previously have shown that CSC exposure increases both general- and social anxiety-related behavior (Slattery et al., 2012 PNEC), we have an animal model in hands allowing us to investigate in detail the underlying mechanisms. Thereby we focus the autonomic nervous system by using telemetry (Fig. 6 right panel), as well as on the assessment of neuro-inflammatory processes by Taqman PCR and immunohistochemistry. Interestingly, while the CSC-induced increase in general anxiety was long-lasting and still detectable 10 days following termination of CSC, social deficits were only transient, suggesting different neuronal mechanisms to be involved in these behavioral stress consequences. As accumulating evidence supports the idea that the sensory, in particular the visual, contact to a rodent conspecific during/following stressor exposure is able to induce a stress response in the observer animal, we also consider different sensory contact modalities to the stressor (last dominant mouse during CSC) following termination of the physical stressor exposure (Fig. 6 left and middle panel).

Funding: University intern Budget