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Social Dominance Modulates Stress-induced Neural Activity in Medial Prefrontal Cortex Projections to the Basolateral Amygdala

Dulka, BN;Bress, KS;Grizzell, JA;Cooper, MA;

Stress is a contributing factor in the etiology of several mood and anxiety disorders, and social defeat models are used to investigate the biological basis of stress-related psychopathologies. Male Syrian hamsters are highly aggressive and territorial, but after social defeat they exhibit a conditioned defeat (CD) response which is characterized by increased submissive behavior and a failure to defend their home territory against a smaller, non-aggressive intruder. Hamsters with dominant social status show increased c-Fos expression in the infralimbic (IL) cortex following social defeat and display a reduced CD response at testing compared to subordinates and controls. In this study, we tested the prediction that dominants would show increased defeat-induced neural activity in IL, but not prelimbic (PL) or ventral hippocampus (vHPC), neurons that send efferent projections to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) compared to subordinates. We performed dual immunohistochemistry for c-Fos and cholera toxin B (CTB) and found that dominants display a significantly greater proportion of double-labeled c-Fos+CTB cells in both the IL and PL. Furthermore, dominants display more c-Fos-positive cells in both the IL and PL, but not vHPC, compared to subordinates. These findings suggest that dominant hamsters selectively activate IL and PL, but not vHPC, projections to the amygdala during social defeat, which may be responsible for their reduced CD response. This project extends our understanding of the neural circuits underlying resistance to social stress, which is an important step toward delineating a circuit-based approach for the prevention and treatment of stress-related psychopathologies. Copyright 2018 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.