A novel approach to PTSD modeling in rats reveals alternating patterns of limbic activity in different types of stress reaction

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Human reactions to trauma exposure are extremely diverse, with some individuals exhibiting only time-limited distress and others qualifying for posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis (PTSD). Furthermore, whereas most PTSD patients mainly display fear-based symptoms, a minority of patients display a co-morbid anhedonic phenotype. We employed an individual profiling approach to model these intriguing facets of the psychiatric condition in underwater-trauma exposed rats. Based on long-term assessments of anxiety-like and anhedonic behaviors, our analysis uncovered three separate phenotypes of stress response; an anxious, fear-based (38%), a co-morbid, fear-anhedonic (15%), and an exposed-unaffected group (47%). Immunohistochemical assessments for cellular activation (c-Fos) and activation of inhibition (c-Fos+GAD67) revealed a differential involvement of limbic regions and distinct coactivity patterns for each of these phenotypes, validating the behavioral categorization. In accordance with recent neurocognitive hypotheses for posttraumatic depression, we show that enhanced pretrauma anxiety predicts the progression of posttraumatic anhedonia only in the fear-anhedonic phenotype.

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