Repeated exposure to a wide range of stressors differing in nature and intensity results in a reduced response of prototypical stress markers (i.e. plasma levels of ACTH and adrenaline) after an acute challenge with the same (homotypic) stressor. This reduction has been considered to be a habituation-like phenomenon. However, direct experimental evidence for this assumption is scarce. In the present work we demonstrate in adult male rats that adaptation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to repeated stress does not follow some of the critical rules of habituation. Briefly, adaptation was stronger and faster with more severe stressors, maximally observed even with a single exposure to severe stressors, extremely long-lasting, negatively related to the interval between the exposures and positively related to the length of daily exposure. We offer a new theoretical view to explain adaptation to daily repeated stress.
Keywords: ACTH; Corticosterone; Habituation; Immobilization; Repeated stress; Restraint; Water stress; c-fos.
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