Stress hormones and emotion-regulation in two genetic animal models of depression.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Oct; 31(9):1105-16.P
Children of depressed parents often exhibit emotion-regulation deficits, characterized by either excessive withdrawal or approach strategies toward the mother. The current study examined behavioral and physiological emotion-regulation in preweanling pups (postnatal day 17-19) belonging to two different genetic animal models of depression, Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) and Flinders Sensitive-Line (FSL) rats. The study also examined the effects of stress on the two animal models, hypothesizing an interactive effect of hereditary vulnerability and exposure to stress. Chronic-stress was simulated by providing limited bedding to the dam and litter for a week, in the early postnatal period. Acute-stress was generated by exposure to an adult male rat, an ethologically valid stressor. Emotion-regulation of the pups was examined using a Y-maze preference test and radioimmunoassay of Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis hormones (corticosterone & adreno-corticotropin/ACTH). WKY and FSL pups exhibited reduced approach-behavior toward the dam, an emotion-regulation profile reminiscent of avoidant attachment evident in many children of depressed parents. In contrast, the two animal models did not show similar HPA axis activity. FSL pups exhibited markedly lower ACTH levels compared to controls, while WKY pups did not differ from controls. With regard to the stress manipulations, the limited-bedding condition had no effect, while the acute-stressor induced overall effects on all groups, with more pronounced reactivity evident in the WKY and FSL pups. Taken together, the experiments indicate a similar behavioral profile of the two strains at the preweanling period, while suggesting HPA dysfunction in only one of the strains.