Passive Coping Strategies During Repeated Social Defeat Are Associated With Long-Lasting Changes in Sleep in Rats

Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. 2021; 15: 782603. Published online 2021 Oct 5. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2021.782603
Authored By:
Laura A. Grafe, Lauren O’Mara, Anna Branch, Jane Dobkin, Sandra Luz, Abigail Vigderman, Aakash Shingala, Leszek Kubin, Richard Ross, Seema Bhatnagar
Exposure to severe stress has immediate and prolonged neuropsychiatric consequences and increases the risk of developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Importantly, PTSD develops in only a subset of individuals after exposure to a traumatic event, with the understanding of this selective vulnerability being very limited. Individuals who go on to develop PTSD after a traumatic experience typically demonstrate sleep disturbances including persistent insomnia and recurrent trauma-related nightmares. We previously established a repeated social defeat paradigm in which rats segregate into either passively or actively coping subpopulations, and we found that this distinction correlates with measures of vulnerability or resilience to stress. In this study, we examined differences between these two behavioral phenotypes in sleep changes resulting from repeated social defeat stress. Our data indicate that, compared to control and actively coping rats, passively coping rats have less slow-wave sleep (SWS) for at least 2 weeks after the end of a series of exposures to social defeat. Furthermore, resilient rats show less exaggerated motor activation at awakenings from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and less fragmentation of REM sleep compared to control and passively coping rats. Together, these data associate a passive coping strategy in response to repeated social defeat stress with persisting sleep disturbances. Conversely, an active coping strategy may be associated with resilience to sleep disturbances. These findings may have both prognostic and therapeutic applications to stress-associated neuropsychiatric disorders, including PTSD.
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Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience

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