Indexed on: 16 May '12Published on: 16 May '12Published in: Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Clinical studies have shown a link between early-life adversity and severity of adulthood responses to a traumatic stress event (post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD). Despite a need for basic research, few rodent models are available to test the lasting impacts of early-life traumatic stressors. Underwater trauma (UWT) has been used previously to model traumatic stress; however, effects of this procedure have only been characterized in adulthood. Susceptibility of younger animals to physiological or psychological damage from a forced submersion procedure is unknown. A procedure involving swimming may be a stressful stimulus outside of the underwater component of the experience, as well. The acute effects of a 1-minute sham exposure (empty water tank), swim-only, and UWT (40s swim followed by 20s underwater) were compared in adolescent rats at postnatal day 37. No effects on blood oxygenation or lung tissue were observed. Stepwise decreases in open arm behavior were observed on the elevated plus maze (EPM) in swim-only rats, while UWT rats showed an immediate, lasting decrease in open arm behavior. UWT rats showed a significant decrease in basal corticosterone one week after trauma. These results show that while water immersion is a stressor, UWT causes a distinct syndrome of traumatic stress response in adolescent rats.