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Sex-dependent effects of stress on insular cortex-to-nucleus accumbens synaptic plasticity

Gauthier, M;Dugast, E;Lardeux, V;Letort, K;Belnoue, L;Balado, E;Solinas, M;Belujon, P;

Stress is an important risk factor for the development of psychiatric disorders and men and women tend to react differently to stress. Sex differences are also observed in many stress-related psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders or addiction. Therefore, identifying specific neuroadaptations induced by stress, in males and females, is a necessary step to the understanding of stress-related sex dimorphism in these disorders. Here, we tested the hypotheses that acute stress could affect plasticity in the anterior insular cortex (aIC)-nucleus accumbens core (NAcC) pathway, two structures involved in the stress response, in a sex-dependent manner. Usingin vivoextracellular recordings in anesthetized rats, we show that synaptic plasticity in the aIC-NAcC pathway is different between male and female rats. Whereas in males, long-term potentiation and long-term depression were equally induced, in females, there was mostly a long-term potentiation induced. Moreover, stress affected synaptic plasticity in the aIC-NAcC differently in male and female rats. In males, stress induced a loss of long-term-depression that lasted for at least 24h, whereas in females, stress induced less neurons displaying LTP, which did not last.These results demonstrate that integration of aIC information to NAcC is different between males and females. This study provides mechanistic support for differential reactivity to stress between males and females that may relate to stress-related psychiatric disorders and sex dimorphism in these disorders.