Chronic post-traumatic stress disorder-related traits in a rat model of low-level blast exposure

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The postconcussion syndrome following mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) has been regarded as a mostly benign syndrome that typically resolves in the immediate months following injury. However, in some individuals, symptoms become chronic and persistent. This has been a striking feature of the mostly blast-related mTBIs that have been seen in veterans returning from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In these veterans a chronic syndrome with features of both the postconcussion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder has been prominent. Animal modeling of blast-related TBI has developed rapidly over the last decade leading to advances in the understanding of blast pathophysiology. However, most studies have focused on acute to subacute effects of blast on the nervous system and have typically studied higher intensity blast exposures with energies more comparable to that involved in human moderate to severe TBI. Fewer animal studies have addressed the chronic effects of lower level blast exposures that are more comparable to those involved in human mTBI or subclinical blast. Here we describe a rat model of repetitive low-level blast exposure that induces a variety of anxiety and PTSD-related behavioral traits including exaggerated fear responses that were present when animals were tested between 28 and 35 weeks after the last blast exposure. These animals provide a model to study the chronic and persistent behavioral effects of blast including the relationship of PTSD to mTBI in dual diagnosis veterans.

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