Chronic restraint or variable stresses differently affect the behavior, corticosterone secretion and body weight in rats
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Organisms are constantly subjected to stressful stimuli that affect numerous physiological processes and activate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, increasing the release of glucocorticoids. Exposure to chronic stress is known to alter basic mechanisms of the stress response. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effect of two different stress paradigms (chronic restraint or variable stress) on behavioral and corticosterone release to a subsequent exposure to stressors. Considering that the HPA axis might respond differently when it is challenged with a novel or a familiar stressor we investigated the changes in the corticosterone levels following the exposure to two stressors: restraint (familiar stress) or forced novelty (novel stress). The changes in the behavioral response were evaluated by measuring the locomotor response to a novel environment. In addition, we examined changes in body, adrenals, and thymus weights in response to the chronic paradigms. Our results showed that exposure to chronic variable stress increased basal plasma corticosterone levels and that both, chronic restraint and variable stresses, promote higher corticosterone levels in response to a novel environment, but not to a challenge restraint stress, as compared to the control (non-stressed) group. Exposure to chronic restraint leads to increased novelty-induced locomotor activity. Furthermore, only the exposure to variable stress reduced body weights. In conclusion, the present results provide additional evidence on how chronic stress affects the organism physiology and point to the importance of the chronic paradigm and challenge stress on the behavioral and hormonal adaptations induced by chronic stress. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.