Predictable stress versus unpredictable stress: A comparison in a rodent model of stroke

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Previous studies have associated stress with poor outcome in individuals affected by stroke. It was suggested that the effects of stress depend on the stressor's type and strength. Here we compare the effects of chronic predictable restraint stress and chronic unpredictable variable stress on motor recovery after focal lesion in the rat motor cortex. Adult male rats were pre-trained and tested in skilled reaching and skilled walking tasks. Animals were assigned to daily treatments of either restraint stress or variable stress starting 1 week prior to lesion up to 2 weeks post-lesion. One group served as lesion only control. The results revealed a distinct pattern of recovery and compensation of skilled movement. Animals exposed to predictable restraint stress had significantly lower reaching success at both pre- and post-lesion time points, and higher error rates in skilled walking when compared to lesion controls. Overall, restraint stress induced more pronounced motor impairments prior to and after injury than variable stress. Variable stress increased the number of attempts required to grasp food pellets and changed movement pattern performance. By contrast, variable stress improved limb placement accuracy when compared to lesion controls. The behavioural changes were not accompanied by differences in infarct size. These findings are in agreement with other studies reporting that both chronic predicable restraint stress and unpredictable variable stress influence the course of recovery following stroke, however, restraint stress might affect stroke recovery through a different route than variable stress.

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