Stress resilience and vulnerability: The association with rearing conditions, endocrine function, immunology, and anxious behavior Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: The current study explored the underlying behavioral, endocrine, and immune markers of vulnerability to stress-induced depression, and the impact of rearing environments on adult functioning. METHOD: Adult Sprague-Dawley rats (n=195) were reared in either Maternal Separation (MS), Early Weaning and Isolation (EWI), or Non-Handled (NH) conditions. Anxiety behavior was assessed using the emergence test at mean postnatal day (PND) 60. Stress-induced depressive behavior was measured at mean PND 86 using an intermittent cold water swim stress and swim escape test (SET) paradigm. Immediately following the SET, and in a sample of naïve controls (N=31), trunk blood was collected to assay for serum corticosterone (CORT) and spleens were removed for determination of Concanavalin A (Con-A) stimulated T-cell proliferation. RESULTS: Stress vulnerable rats (top tertile of SET swim time) were characterised by increased anxiety-like behavior, greater post-stress CORT concentrations, and a significantly higher Con-A induced T-cell proliferative response compared to stress resilient rats (bottom tertile of SET swim time). The EWI rearing condition was a contributing factor in predicting total swim escape time, however MS was not. MS offspring did have double the basal level of CORT than NH offspring, suggestive of a hyperfunctioning HPA axis. CONCLUSION: The swim stress animal model enabled observation of stress vulnerability and resilience; results point towards the existence of distinct behavioral, endocrine, and immunological profiles of the vulnerable and resilient animal, which may have important implications for mental health and stress research.

publication date

  • October 2011