The chronic mild stress (CMS) paradigm was developed in order to simulate in animals the symptom of anhedonia, a major feature of depression. Typically, changes in hedonic status are interpreted from a decrease in either intake or preference for a mild sucrose solution. Although the incidence of clinical depression is significantly higher in women than in men, the study of this disorder in most animal models of depression has been based on the responses of male rodents. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of 6 weeks of CMS administration among male and female rats of two rat strains, Sprague-Dawley (SD) and Long Evans (LE), with respect to physiological (body, adrenal gland, and spleen weight) and biochemical (plasma corticosterone levels) indices of stress as well as evaluations of 1 and 24 h sucrose intake and preference. Estrous cycle was tracked throughout the study. Overall, our results indicate a slower rate of weight gain in animals, greater in males, exposed to the chronic stressor regime. Furthermore, CMS is shown to disrupt estrous cycling, predominantly in the Long Evans strain of rats. The main behavioral finding was a significant reduction in 24 h sucrose intake in female treated groups, which was not accompanied by alterations in preference. Corticosterone levels were elevated in CMS-treated animals relative to the singly housed control groups, but exposure to a subsequent stressor was not influenced by the stress history. Taken together, the effects of chronic stressor exposure are evident, based on physiological and biochemical indices, although none of the measures distinguished any striking gender specific reactions. The usefulness of sucrose intake or preference as behavioral indices of CMS-induced anhedonia in males and females is modest at best.
- Chronic mild stress
- Sex difference
- Sucrose intake and preference