Sex differences in a rabbit eyeblink conditioning model of PTSD

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Abstract

We have developed a rabbit model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which recapitulates several core features of PTSD, particularly hyperarousal and conditioned responding to trauma-associated cues. The work conducted with this model has all been done in male rabbits and, given sex differences in PTSD prevalence, it is important to expand our animal model of PTSD to include female rabbits to determine if they develop core features of PTSD, and if those core features can be treated. This is particularly important because, contrary to human studies, nearly all animal studies have found that males are consistently more vulnerable to various forms of acute and chronic stress than females. Using eyeblink conditioning in which we paired tone with a brief periorbital shock, we found that although both male and female rabbits acquired identical levels of conditioning, females showed more hyperarousal after conditioning but seemed to respond somewhat better to treatment.

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