Disruptive effects of repeated stress on basolateral amygdala neurons and fear behavior across the estrous cycle in rats

Sci Rep. 2019 Aug 23;9(1):12292. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-48683-3.


Stress is a precipitating factor in depression and anxiety disorders. Patients with these disorders often show amygdala abnormalities. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) is integral in mood and emotion, and is sensitive to stress. While much is known about effects of stress on BLA neuron activity and morphology in males, less is known in females. We tested whether repeated stress exerts distinct effects on BLA in vivo neuronal activity and morphology of Golgi-stained BLA neurons [lateral (LAT) and basal (BA) nuclei] in adult female rats. Repeated restraint stress increased BLA neuronal firing and caused hypertrophy of BLA neurons in males, while it decreased LAT and BA neuronal firing and caused hypotrophy of neurons in the LAT of females. BLA neuronal activity and function, such as fear conditioning, shifts across the estrous cycle. Repeated stress disrupted this pattern of BLA activity and fear expression over the estrous cycle. The disruptive effects of stress on the pattern of BLA function across estrous may produce behavior that is non-optimal for a specific phase of the estrous cycle. The contrasting effects of stress may contribute to sex differences in the effects of stress on mood and psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Basolateral Nuclear Complex / physiopathology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Dendritic Spines / metabolism
  • Endocrine System / metabolism
  • Estrous Cycle / physiology*
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*