Chronic social stress: effects on limbic brain structures

Physiol Behav. 2003 Aug;79(3):417-27. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(03)00161-6.


Different types of stressors are known to activate distinct neuronal circuits in the brain. Acute physiological stimuli that are life threatening and require immediate reactions lead to a rapid stimulation of brainstem and hypothalamus to activate efferent visceral pathways. In contrast, psychological stressors activate higher-order brain structures for further interpretations of the perceived endangerment. Common to the later multimodal stressors is that they need cortical processing and, depending on previous experience or ongoing activation, the information is assembled within limbic circuits connecting, e.g., the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex to induce neuroendocrine and behavioral responses. In view of the fact that stressful life events often contribute to the etiology of psychopathologies such as depressive episodes, several animal models have been developed to study central nervous mechanisms that are induced by stress. The present review summarizes observations made in the tree shrew chronic psychosocial stress paradigm with particular focus on neurotransmitter systems and structural changes in limbic brain regions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Biogenic Monoamines / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Social Environment*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Tupaiidae


  • Biogenic Monoamines