Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by a life-threatening event causing intense fear. Recently, functional neuroimaging studies have suggested that amygdala hyperactivity is responsible for the symptoms of PTSD. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) can functionally reduce the activity of a cerebral target by delivering an electrical signal through an electrode. We tested whether DBS of the amygdala could be used to treat PTSD symptoms. Rats traumatized by inescapable shocks, in the presence of an unfamiliar object, develop the tendency to bury the object when re-exposed to it several days later. This behavior mimics the symptoms of PTSD. 10 Sprague-Dawley rats underwent the placement of an electrode in the right basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLn). The rats were then subjected to a session of inescapable shocks while being exposed to a conspicuous object (a ball). Five rats received DBS treatment while the other 5 rats did not. After 7 days of treatment, the rats were re-exposed to the ball and the time spent burying it under the bedding was recorded. Rats treated with BLn DBS spent on average 13 times less time burying the ball than the sham control rats. The treated rats also spent 18 times more time exploring the ball than the sham control rats. In conclusion, the behavior of treated rats in this PTSD model was nearly normalized. We argue that these results have direct implications for patients suffering from treatment-resistant PTSD by offering a new therapeutic strategy.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.