Stress inoculation modeled in mice

Brockhurst J, Cheleuitte-Nieves C, Buckmaster CL, Schatzberg AF, Lyons DM
Transl Psychiatry. 2015; 5:e537.


Stress inoculation entails intermittent exposure to mildly stressful situations that present opportunities to learn, practice and improve coping in the context of exposure psychotherapies and resiliency training. Here we investigate behavioral and hormonal aspects of stress inoculation modeled in mice. Mice randomized to stress inoculation or a control treatment condition were assessed for corticosterone stress hormone responses and behavior during open-field, object-exploration and tail-suspension tests. Stress inoculation training sessions that acutely increased plasma levels of corticosterone diminished subsequent immobility as a measure of behavioral despair on tail-suspension tests. Stress inoculation also decreased subsequent freezing in the open field despite comparable levels of thigmotaxis in mice from both treatment conditions. Stress inoculation subsequently decreased novel-object exploration latencies and reduced corticosterone responses to repeated restraint. These results demonstrate that stress inoculation acutely stimulates glucocorticoid signaling and then enhances subsequent indications of active coping behavior in mice. Unlike mouse models that screen for the absence of vulnerability to stress or presence of traits that occur in resilient individuals, stress inoculation training reflects an experience-dependent learning-like process that resembles interventions designed to build resilience in humans. Mouse models of stress inoculation may provide novel insights for new preventive strategies or therapeutic treatments of human psychiatric disorders that are triggered and exacerbated by stressful life events.