Using the Single Prolonged Stress Model to Examine the Pathophysiology of PTSD



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Frontiers Media SA


The endurance of memories of emotionally arousing events serves the adaptive role of minimizing future exposure to danger and reinforcing rewarding behaviors. However, following a traumatic event, a subset of individuals suffers from persistent pathological symptoms such as those seen in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the availability of pharmacological treatments and evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy, a considerable number of PTSD patients do not respond to the treatment, or show partial remission and relapse of the symptoms. In controlled laboratory studies, PTSD patients show deficient ability to extinguish conditioned fear. Failure to extinguish learned fear could be responsible for the persistence of PTSD symptoms such as elevated anxiety, arousal, and avoidance. It may also explain the high non-response and dropout rates seen during treatment. Animal models are useful for understanding the pathophysiology of the disorder and the development of new treatments. This review examines studies in a rodent model of PTSD with the goal of identifying behavioral and physiological factors that predispose individuals to PTSD symptoms. Single prolonged stress (SPS) is a frequently used rat model of PTSD that involves exposure to several successive stressors. SPS rats show PTSD-like symptoms, including impaired extinction of conditioned fear. Since its development by the Liberzon lab in 1997, the SPS model has been referred to by more than 200 published papers. Here we consider the findings of these studies and unresolved questions that may be investigated using the model.



Models, Animal, Fear, Glucocorticoids, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Stress, Psychological, Extinction, Psychological, Stress, Physiological

Grant/Contract No. DARPA-BAA-14-38 and DARPA-BAA-15-06; NIMH No. MH105014


CC BY 4.0 (Attribution), ©2017 The Authors