Brain activation induced by chronic psychosocial stress in mice

Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 8;7(1):15061. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-15422-5.


Chronic psychosocial stress is a well-established risk factor for neuropsychiatric diseases. Abnormalities in brain activity have been demonstrated in patients with stress-related disorders. Global brain activation patterns during chronic stress exposure are less well understood but may have strong modifying effects on specific brain circuits and thereby influence development of stress-related pathologies. We determined neural activation induced by chronic social defeat stress, a mouse model of psychosocial stress. To assess chronic activation with an unbiased brain-wide focus we used manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI) and immunohistochemical staining of ∆FOSB, a transcription factor induced by repeated neural activity. One week after 10-day social defeat we observed significantly more activation in several brain regions known to regulate depressive and anxiety-like behaviour, including the prefrontal cortex, bed nucleus of stria terminalis, ventral hippocampus and periaqueductal grey in stressed compared to control mice. We further established that the correlation of ∆FOSB positive cells between specific brain regions was altered following chronic social defeat. Chronic activation of these neural circuits may relate to persistent brain activity changes occurring during chronic psychosocial stress exposure, with potential relevance for the development of anxiety and depression in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Anxiety Disorders / metabolism
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Manganese
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnostic imaging
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • Fosb protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Manganese