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Chronic Stress Triggers Social Aversion via Glucocorticoid Receptor in Dopaminoceptive Neurons

Science  18 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6117, pp. 332-335
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226767

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Abstract

Repeated traumatic events induce long-lasting behavioral changes that are key to organism adaptation and that affect cognitive, emotional, and social behaviors. Rodents subjected to repeated instances of aggression develop enduring social aversion and increased anxiety. Such repeated aggressions trigger a stress response, resulting in glucocorticoid release and activation of the ascending dopamine (DA) system. We bred mice with selective inactivation of the gene encoding the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) along the DA pathway, and exposed them to repeated aggressions. GR in dopaminoceptive but not DA-releasing neurons specifically promoted social aversion as well as dopaminergic neurochemical and electrophysiological neuroadaptations. Anxiety and fear memories remained unaffected. Acute inhibition of the activity of DA-releasing neurons fully restored social interaction in socially defeated wild-type mice. Our data suggest a GR-dependent neuronal dichotomy for the regulation of emotional and social behaviors, and clearly implicate GR as a link between stress resiliency and dopaminergic tone.

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