Immediate and enduring effects of corticosterone administration during adolescence and adulthood on anxiety and depressive behavior in male rats
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Previous research has shown that the stress hormone corticosterone can increase depressive and anxiety-like behavior in rats as well as dampen the HPA response to a novel stressor (Kalynchuk et aI., 2004; Johnson et aI., 2006). Several studies have also shown that adolescence is a period of increased sensitivity to the negative effects of stressors (reviewed in McCormick et aI., 2010), which are often the result of exposure to corticosterone, and yet there is no research to date examining the effects of corticosterone administration during adolescence. The purpose of these experiments is to determine both the immediate and enduring effects of prolonged exposure to corticosterone in adolescence and adulthood on anxiety-like behavior, depressive behavior, and the HPA response. In Experiment 1 adolescent and adult rats were administered an injection of 40 mg/kg of corticosterone or vehicle daily for 16 days. Ha l f of the rats were then tested on the elevated plus maze (EPM) one day after their last injection, and the following day were tested on the forced swim test (FST). After the FST, which is a stressor, blood samples were collected at three time points, and the plasma concentrations of corticosterone were determined using a radioimmunoassay. The remaining rats were left undisturbed for three weeks, and then underwent the same testing as the first group. Corticosterone treatment had little effect on anxiety-like and depressive behavior, but it did alter the HPA response to the FST. In those rats tested soon after the period of injections, corticosterone dampened the HPA response as compared to vehicle treated rats in both adolescent and adult treated rats. For the adolescent treated rats that were tested several weeks later, corticosterone treatment increased HPA response as compared to the vehicle treated rats, but the same was not true for the adult treated rats. I t was hypothesized that the lack of behavioral effects of the corticosterone treatment may be the result of the vehicle injections inducing a stress response and thereby both groups would have similarly altered behavior. In Experiment 2 rats were administered corticosterone dissolved in their drinking water with 2.5% ethanol, or jus t the 2.5% ethanol or plain water, to determine the effects of corticosterone treatment without a stressor present. The regular drinking water was replaced with treated water for 16 days either during adulthood or adolescence, and as before, rats were either tested in the FST one day after the water was removed or three weeks later. Again there was no effect of treatment on depressive behavior. Similar to what was observed in Experiment 1, corticosterone treatment dampened the HPA response to a stressor for the rats tested soon after the treatment period. However, in Experiment 2 there was no effect of treatment on HPA response in those rats tested several weeks after they were treated. These results indicate that corticosterone can have a lasting effect on the HPA when administered in adolescence by injections but not in drinking water, which is likely because of the different schedules of exposure and rates of absorption between the two administration methods.