Strain and gender specific effects in the forced swim test: effects of previous stress exposure

Stress. 2003 Dec;6(4):269-80. doi: 10.1080/10253890310001602829.


The chronic mild stress (CMS) procedure was developed in rodents to target anhedonia, the core symptom of depressive melancholia. Stress exposure has been shown to induce a variety of physiological, biochemical and behavioral alterations associated with depression, although its anhedonic consequences as indexed by either sucrose intake and preference or thresholds for brain stimulation reward are less reliably observed. In the present study, we assessed the effects of six weeks of CMS on the latter measure in two strains of male and female rats subsequently challenged with an acute psychophysical stressor, forced swimming; their behavior in the swimming cylinder was evaluated on two consecutive days. While brain stimulation reward thresholds and response rates were unchanged by CMS exposure, significant differences in forced swim behaviors were observed between male control and CMS groups. In particular, male Long Evans rats with a history of CMS showed the largest decrease in the duration of active behaviors on the second test day, a pattern less evident in the Sprague-Dawley strain of rats, or in any of the female groups. The results suggest that the effects of depressogenic manipulations are strain and gender dependent, with male Long Evans rats most susceptible, as demonstrated by the selective reduction of struggling behaviors. Inclusion of multiple measures, including the forced swim test, would provide a better understanding of the psychopathological profile engendered by chronic exposure to mild stressors and its genetic specificity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Weight
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Coercion
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Differential Threshold
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recurrence
  • Reward
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Species Specificity
  • Stress, Physiological / etiology
  • Stress, Physiological / pathology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Physiological / psychology
  • Swimming