Stressful life experiences are known to be a precipitating factor for many mental disorders. The social defeat model induces behavioral responses in rodents (e.g. reduced social interaction) that are similar to behavioral patterns associated with mood disorders. The model has contributed to the discovery of novel mechanisms regulating behavioral responses to stress, but its utility has been largely limited to males. This is disadvantageous because most mood disorders have a higher incidence in women versus men. Male and female California mice (Peromyscus californicus) aggressively defend territories, which allowed us to observe the effects of social defeat in both sexes. In two experiments, mice were exposed to three social defeat or control episodes. Mice were then behaviorally phenotyped, and indirect markers of brain activity and corticosterone responses to a novel social stimulus were assessed. Sex differences in behavioral responses to social stress were long lasting (4 wks). Social defeat reduced social interaction responses in females but not males. In females, social defeat induced an increase in the number of phosphorylated CREB positive cells in the nucleus accumbens shell after exposure to a novel social stimulus. This effect of defeat was not observed in males. The effects of defeat in females were limited to social contexts, as there were no differences in exploratory behavior in the open field or light-dark box test. These data suggest that California mice could be a useful model for studying sex differences in behavioral responses to stress, particularly in neurobiological mechanisms that are involved with the regulation of social behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)