Chronic stress and social housing differentially affect neurogenesis in male and female rats

Westenbroek, C., Boer, J. A. D., Veenhuis, M. & Horst, G. J. T., 2004, In : Brain Research Bulletin. 64, 4, p. 303-308 6 p.

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Stress plays an important role in the development of affective disorders. Women show a higher prevalence for these disorders than men. The course of a depression is thought to be positively influenced by social support. We have used a chronic stress model in which rats received foot-shocks daily for 3 weeks. Since rats are social animals we hypothesised that ‘social support’ might reduce the adverse effects of chronic stress. To test this hypothesis, male and female rats were housed individually or socially in unisex groups of four rats. The proliferation marker bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was injected 2 weeks before the sacrifice to investigate if stress and social housing influenced the survival of proliferating cells in the dentate gyrus (DG). To investigate changes in proliferation, another group of rats was sacrificed the day after the last BrdU injection. Stress significantly decreased BrdU labelling in individually housed males and not significantly in socially housed males. In individually housed females stress increased BrdU labelling, which was prevented by social housing. The increase found in females is most likely caused by differences in survival rate, since cell proliferation was not affected by stress or housing conditions. These results indicate that social support can affect neurogenesis in both female and male rats, however in a different way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-308
Number of pages6
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Social support, Affective disorders, Hippocampus, BrdU, Gender

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