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Stress Produces PTSD-like Symptoms in Rats

through frequent flashback memories of the experience.

The USF and VA investigators suggested that this research can serve as a tool to develop pharmacological treatments which may alleviate the symptoms of PTSD in people.

“A substantial number of troops returning from the war in Iraq have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to the latest studies conducted by the U.S. Army,” said Diamond. “As a result, there’s an urgent need for research into the biological basis of PTSD to facilitate the development of treatments for this disorder.”

Just as veterans of combat with PTSD have heightened anxiety that may persist long after they return to civilian life, rats displayed high levels of anxiety, an exaggerated response to being startled, and increased blood pressure long after they were exposed to the cat, explained Diamond. The cat-exposed rats also exhibited PTSD-like behavioral responses when they were given yohimbine, a drug that causes panic in people with PTSD. Importantly, the stressed rats exhibited profound memory deficits, which indicates they had impaired functioning of the hippocampus, a brain structure which is necessary for learning and memory and shows impaired functioning in people with PTSD.

“The animal model of PTSD is unique because it utilizes purely psychological forms of stress to produce long-lasting PTSD-like symptoms in rats,” said Zoladz. “An advantage of this animal model of PTSD is that it will enable researchers to examine mechanisms in the brain that may be responsible for the pathological effects of traumatic stress on people.”

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