Background. Most epidemiological studies report higher prevalence rates of stress-related disorders such as acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder in women than in men. Few animal models of PTSD have taken gender differences into account and have typically used male subjects. In order to explore gender-related PTSD-like stress-responses more thoroughly, we applied an animal model that focuses selectively on individual patterns of behavioural responses. Methods. Prevalence rates of individual behavioural response to a single exposure to predator scent stress (PSS) were assessed by both elevated plus-maze and startle response paradigms. Prevalence rates of extreme behavioural disruption (EBR) on both tests were assessed, correlated to corticosterone levels, and compared to global population response data. In addition, we assessed learning and memory in the Morris water-maze (MWM). Results. There were no significant differences between the behavioural responses related to oestrous cycle phase in terms of global data for the groups or in terms of prevalence rates of EBR. The overall patterns of response of males and females were affected, yet females demonstrated greater levels of baseline anxiety-like behaviour and lower peak levels of post-exposure anxiety-like behaviour than males. However, the prevalence rates of individual subjects who responded with PTSD-like behaviour were equal for female and male subjects. PSS-exposed female subjects demonstrated significantly compromised performance in the MWM compared to males. Conclusions. In this animal model, the results clarified that the assumption that females are more vulnerable is true for the magnitude of the response, but not for the prevalence of pathological response patterns in rat populations.
- Animal model
- Estrous cycle
- Extreme behavioural response
- Posttraumatic stress disorder