Adolescent Male Rats Exposed to Social Defeat Exhibit Altered Anxiety Behavior and Limbic Monoamines as Adults

Michael J. Watt, Andrew R. Burke, Kenneth J. Renner, Gina L. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Social stress in adolescence is correlated with emergence of psychopathologies during early adulthood. In this study, the authors investigated the impact of social defeat stress during mid-adolescence on adult male brain and behavior. Adolescent male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to repeated social defeat for 5 days while controls were placed in a novel empty cage. When exposed to defeat-associated cues as adults, previously defeated rats showed increased risk assessment and behavioral inhibition, demonstrating long-term memory for the defeat context. However, previously defeated rats exhibited increased locomotion in both elevated plus-maze and open field tests, suggesting heightened novelty-induced behavior. Adolescent defeat also affected adult monoamine levels in stress-responsive limbic regions, causing decreased medial prefrontal cortex dopamine, increased norepinephrine and serotonin in the ventral dentate gyrus, and decreased norepinephrine in the dorsal raphe. Our results suggest that adolescent social defeat produces both deficits in anxiety responses and altered monoaminergic function in adulthood. This model offers potential for identifying specific mechanisms induced by severe adolescent social stress that may contribute to increased adult male vulnerability to psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-576
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent stress
  • anxiety
  • monoamine
  • social defeat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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