Effects of Stress Exposure During Adolescence on Anxiety and Cognitive Functioning in Male and Female Rats

Student: Kelly Antimisiaris*,  Kelsey Burke*, Caitlyn Goggin and Michael Riccio
Mentor: Rachel Bowman
Major: Psychology 

Chronic stress effects in adult rats are well documented and known to elicit sex-dependent responses. Exposure to chronic restraint stress increases anxiety and impairs memory in male, but not female, adult rats. Only recently have stress researchers turned their attention to the period of adolescent development. The current study was designed to examine the effects of restraint stress exposure during adolescence on a variety of behavioral measures. Male (n=16) and female (n=16) juvenile Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned to a stress (restraint, 4 hr/day, 5 days) or control group. Following the stress duration, all subjects were tested for anxiety (Elevated Plus Maze) and locomotor activity (Open Field), as well as spatial memory (Object Placement) and non-spatial working memory (Object Recognition) following a 15 min and 1 hr inter-trial delay. Results show that adolescent stress did not alter anxiety but did decrease overall activity across time significantly more than controls. Object placement results revealed that adolescent stress enhanced spatial memory following short, but not long, delays and that this enhancement was sex-independent. Object recognition results revealed that both control and stress subjects performed the task at both short and long delays; however, there was a significant enhancement in stress male, but not females, following the 1 hr delay. Together, these results demonstrate that the period of adolescence is a time of vulnerability and that the stress effects observed during this stage of development differ from those observed in adulthood.

*Honors Senior