Learning to actively cope with stress in female mice

Lyons DM, Buckmaster CL, Schatzberg AF
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018; 96:78-83.


Repeated exposure to a same-sex resident stranger enhances subsequent indications of active coping that generalize across multiple contexts in intruder male mice. Here we investigate female mice for comparable learning to cope training effects. Stress coping research focused on females is important because stress related mood and anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than men. Female mice were monitored for coping behavior in open-field, object-exploration, and tail-suspension tests conducted after repeated exposure to a same-sex resident stranger. During repeated exposure sessions of training staged in the resident's home cage, behavioral measures of aggression and risk assessment were collected and plasma measures of the stress hormone corticosterone were obtained from separate samples of mice. Repeated exposure to a same-sex resident stranger subsequently enhanced active coping behavior exemplified by diminished freezing and increased center entries in the open-field, shorter object-exploration latencies, and a tendency toward decreased immobility on tail-suspension tests. Open-field locomotion considered as an index of non-specific activity was not increased by repeated sessions of exposure and did not correlate significantly with any measure of active coping. During repeated sessions of exposure to a same-sex resident stranger, risk assessment behavior and consistent but limited aggression occurred and corticosterone responses increased over repeated sessions. Exposure to a same-sex resident stranger is mildly stressful and promotes learning to actively cope in mice assessed in three different contexts.