Major Depression is a prevalent mental disorder that is characterized by negative mood and reduced motivation, and frequently results in social withdrawal and memory-related deficits. Repeated stressors, such as adverse life events, increase the risk for development of the disorder. Consequently, individual variability in stress response greatly weighs on depression-vulnerability and -resilience. Here, we employed the social defeat-induced persistent stress (SDPS) paradigm to identify depression-prone individuals and to examine the temporal development of depression in the months following exposure to brief defeat stress. Male Wistar rats were socially defeated (5 defeat episodes) and single-housed for a prolonged period of time (~24 weeks). We assessed the emergence of a sustained depressive-like state by repeatedly evaluating social motivation (social approach avoidance) and spatial memory (object place recognition) in SDPS rats during the isolation period. Individual variability in the effects of SDPS yielded two extreme subpopulations: an SDPS-prone group that showed gradual affective and cognitive deterioration in terms of social approach and memory retention, and a SDPS-resilient group that did not develop this phenotype. Notably, in SDPS-prone individuals, the affective deficits preceded later cognitive impairments, providing a novel temporal profile of the development of pathology in this preclinical model of sustained depression.

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Journal Scientific Reports
Riga, D, Schmitz, L.J.M, Hoogendijk, W.J.G, Smit, A.B, & Spijker, S. (2017). Temporal profiling of depression vulnerability in a preclinical model of sustained depression. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06984-5