Many species use social networks to buffer the effects of stress. The mere absence of a social network, however, may also be stressful. We examined neuroendocrine, PVN CRH neurons and report that social isolation alters the intrinsic properties of these cells in sexually dimorphic fashion. Specifically, isolating preadolescent female mice from littermates for <24 hr increased first spike latency (FSL) and decreased excitability of CRH neurons. These changes were not evident in age-matched males. By contrast, subjecting either males (isolated or grouped) or group housed females to acute physical stress (swim), increased FSL. The increase in FSL following either social isolation or acute physical stress was blocked by the glucocorticoid synthesis inhibitor, metyrapone and mimicked by exogenous corticosterone. The increase in FSL results in a decrease in the excitability of CRH neurons. Our observations demonstrate that social isolation, but not acute physical stress has sex-specific effects on PVN CRH neurons.
Keywords: ion channels; mouse; neuroscience; plasticity; sex differences; social isolation; stress.