Chronic unpredictable intermittent restraint stress disrupts hippocampal-dependent spatial memory in male, but not female rats
The present series of studies examined whether a novel implementation of an
intermittent restraint (IR) chronic stress paradigm could be used to investigate hippocampal-dependent spatial ability in both sexes. In experiments 1 and 2, Sprague- Dawley male rats were used to identify the optimal IR parameters to assess spatial ability. For IR, rats were restrained for 2 or 6hrs/day (IR2, IR6, respectively) for five days and then given two days off, a process that was repeated for three weeks and compared to rats restrained for 6hrs/d for each day (DR6) and non-stressed controls (CON). Spatial memory was tested on the radial arm water maze (RAWM), object placement (OP), novel object recognition (NOR) and Y-maze. The results for the first two experiments revealed that IR6, but not IR2, was effective in impairing spatial memory in male rats and that task order impacted performance. In experiment 3, an extended IR paradigm for six weeks was implemented before spatial memory testing commenced in male and female rats (IR- M, IR-F). Unexpectedly, an extended IR paradigm failed to impair spatial memory in either males or females, suggesting that when extended, the IR paradigm may have become predictable. In experiment 4, an unpredictable IR (UIR) paradigm was implemented, in which restraint duration (30 or 60-min) combined with orbital shaking, time of day, and the days off from UIR were varied. UIR impaired spatial memory in males, but not females. Together with other reports, these findings support the interpretation that chronic stress negatively impairs hippocampal-dependent function in males, but not females, and that females appear to be resilient to spatial memory deficits in the face of chronic stress.