Chronic stress results in functional and structural changes to the hippocampus. Decades of research has led to insights into the mechanisms underlying the chronic stress-induced deficits in hippocampal-mediated cognition and reduction of dendritic complexity of hippocampal neurons. Recently, a considerable focus of chronic stress research has investigated the mechanisms behind the improvements in hippocampal mediated cognition when chronic stress ends and a post-stress rest period is given. Consequently, the goal of this dissertation is to uncover the mechanisms that allow for spatial ability to improve in the aftermath of chronic stress. In chapter 2, the protein brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was investigated as a mechanism that allows for spatial ability to show improvements following the end of chronic stress. It was found that decreasing the expression of BDNF in the hippocampus prevented spatial memory improvements following a post-stress rest period. Chapter 3 was performed to determine whether hippocampal CA3 apical dendritic complexity requires BDNF to show improvements following a post-stress rest period, and whether a receptor for BDNF, TrkB, mediates the improvements of spatial ability and dendritic complexity in a temporal manner, i.e. during the rest period only. These experiments showed that decreased hippocampal BDNF expression prevented improvements in dendritic complexity, and administration of a TrkB antagonist during the rest period also prevented the improvements in spatial ability and dendritic complexity. In chapter 4, the role of the GABAergic system on spatial ability following chronic stress and a post-stress rest period was investigated. Following chronic stress, it was found that male rats showed impairments on the acquisition phase of the RAWM and this correlated with limbic glutamic acid decarboxylase, a marker for GABA. In chapter 5, a transgenic mouse that expresses a permanent marker on all GABAergic interneurons was used to assess the effects of chronic stress and a post-stress rest period on hippocampal GABAergic neurons. While no changes were found on the total number of GABAergic interneurons, specific subtypes of GABAergic interneurons were affected by stressor manipulations. Collectively, these studies reveal some mechanisms behind the plasticity seen in the hippocampus in response to a post-stress rest period.
- Mechanisms of recovery from chronic stress