There is considerable evidence for a role of stressful experiences in psychosomatic disorders in humans, but the mechanisms leading to altered responsivity and the relative contributions of central and peripheral neuronal changes, however, are still under debate. To investigate the contribution of specific brain areas to sensitized responsivity, rats were exposed to a single brief session of inescapable footshocks (preshocked) or no shocks (control) in a gridcage. Two weeks later, an electrified prod was inserted in the home cage for 15 min and the behaviour recorded. One hour later rats were perfused and brain sections were stained for Fos protein immunoreactivity. The number of Fos positive neurons was quantified in 27 brain areas. No significant difference in behaviour was found between the groups during the shock prod challenge. A significantly higher number of Fos positive neurons was found in preshocked rats compared to controls in the following brain areas: agranular insular cortex, frontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, basolateral amygdala, CA1 area of the hippocampus, paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus, dorsolateral central grey, locus coeruleus, nucleus of the solitary tract and lateral paragigantocellular nucleus. We conclude that altered reactivity to stressful challenges in brain areas involved in neuroendocrine and autonomic control may play a role in long-term sensitization of neuroendocrine and autonomic responses in preshocked rats under conditions where behavioural sensitization is not expressed.
Copyright 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.