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Animal models of post-traumatic stress disorder and recent neurobiological insights

Whitaker, Annie M.; Gilpin, Nicholas W.; Edwards, Scott

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000069
Review Articles

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex psychiatric disorder characterized by the intrusive re-experiencing of past trauma, avoidant behavior, enhanced fear, and hyperarousal following a traumatic event in vulnerable populations. Preclinical animal models do not replicate the human condition in its entirety, but seek to mimic symptoms or endophenotypes associated with PTSD. Although many models of traumatic stress exist, few adequately capture the complex nature of the disorder and the observed individual variability in susceptibility of humans to PTSD. In addition, various types of stressors may produce different molecular neuroadaptations that likely contribute to the various behavioral disruptions produced by each model, although certain consistent neurobiological themes related to PTSD have emerged. For example, animal models report traumatic stress-induced and trauma reminder-induced alterations in neuronal activity in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, in agreement with the human PTSD literature. Models have also provided a conceptual framework for the often-observed combination of PTSD and comorbid conditions such as alcohol use disorder. Future studies will continue to refine preclinical PTSD models in hope of capitalizing on their potential to deliver new and more efficacious treatments for PTSD and associated psychiatric disorders.

Department of Physiology, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence, Louisiana State University Health Science Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Correspondence to Scott Edwards, PhD, Department of Physiology, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Center of Excellence, Louisiana State University Health Science Center, 1901 Perdido Street, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA E-mail: sedwa5@lsuhsc.edu

Received April 24, 2014

Accepted June 23, 2014

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins