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      The Modulatory Role of the Lateral Septum on Neuroendocrine and Behavioral Stress Responses

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          The lateral septum (LS) has been shown to have a key role in emotional processes and stress responses. However, the exact role of the LS on stress modulation is not clear, as previous lesion studies mostly used electrolytic lesions, thereby destroying the whole septal area, including medial components and/or fibers of passage. The aim of the present study was therefore, to investigate the effects of selective excitotoxic ablation of the LS on neuroendocrine and behavioral stress responses in rats. Bilateral ibotenic acid lesions of the LS increased hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenocortical (HPA) axis responses to forced swim stress indicated by enhanced plasma ACTH and corticosterone responses and higher stress-induced c-Fos-like immunoreactivity in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus. Moreover, LS-lesioned animals showed a more passive coping style in the forced swim test indicated by increased floating and reduced struggling/swimming behavior compared with sham-lesioned controls. Interestingly, intraseptal corticosteroid receptor blockade modulated behavioral stress coping but failed to change HPA axis stress responses. Further experiments aimed at elucidating underlying neurochemical mechanisms revealed that intraseptal administration of the selective 5-HT 1A receptor antagonist WAY-100635 increased and prolonged stress-induced ACTH and corticosterone levels mimicking lesion effects, while the agonist 8-OH-DPAT suppressed HPA axis activity facilitating the inhibitory role of the LS. In addition, 8-OH-DPAT-injected animals showed increased active and decreased passive coping strategies during forced swimming suggesting antidepressant efficacy. Taken together, our data suggest that the LS promotes active stress coping behavior and is involved in a HPA-inhibitory mechanism that is at least in part mediated by septal 5-HT 1A receptors and does not involve a glucocorticoid mediated feedback mechanism.

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          Most cited references 72

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          Central mechanisms of stress integration: hierarchical circuitry controlling hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenocortical responsiveness

          Appropriate regulatory control of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical stress axis is essential to health and survival. The following review documents the principle extrinsic and intrinsic mechanisms responsible for regulating stress-responsive CRH neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, which summate excitatory and inhibitory inputs into a net secretory signal at the pituitary gland. Regions that directly innervate these neurons are primed to relay sensory information, including visceral afferents, nociceptors and circumventricular organs, thereby promoting 'reactive' corticosteroid responses to emergent homeostatic challenges. Indirect inputs from the limbic-associated structures are capable of activating these same cells in the absence of frank physiological challenges; such 'anticipatory' signals regulate glucocorticoid release under conditions in which physical challenges may be predicted, either by innate programs or conditioned stimuli. Importantly, 'anticipatory' circuits are integrated with neural pathways subserving 'reactive' responses at multiple levels. The resultant hierarchical organization of stress-responsive neurocircuitries is capable of comparing information from multiple limbic sources with internally generated and peripherally sensed information, thereby tuning the relative activity of the adrenal cortex. Imbalances among these limbic pathways and homeostatic sensors are likely to underlie hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical dysfunction associated with numerous disease processes.
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            Brain corticosteroid receptor balance in health and disease.

             M Oitzl,  R Man,  M Joëls (1998)
            In this review, we have described the function of MR and GR in hippocampal neurons. The balance in actions mediated by the two corticosteroid receptor types in these neurons appears critical for neuronal excitability, stress responsiveness, and behavioral adaptation. Dysregulation of this MR/GR balance brings neurons in a vulnerable state with consequences for regulation of the stress response and enhanced vulnerability to disease in genetically predisposed individuals. The following specific inferences can be made on the basis of the currently available facts. 1. Corticosterone binds with high affinity to MRs predominantly localized in limbic brain (hippocampus) and with a 10-fold lower affinity to GRs that are widely distributed in brain. MRs are close to saturated with low basal concentrations of corticosterone, while high corticosterone concentrations during stress occupy both MRs and GRs. 2. The neuronal effects of corticosterone, mediated by MRs and GRs, are long-lasting, site-specific, and conditional. The action depends on cellular context, which is in part determined by other signals that can activate their own transcription factors interacting with MR and GR. These interactions provide an impressive diversity and complexity to corticosteroid modulation of gene expression. 3. Conditions of predominant MR activation, i.e., at the circadian trough at rest, are associated with the maintenance of excitability so that steady excitatory inputs to the hippocampal CA1 area result in considerable excitatory hippocampal output. By contrast, additional GR activation, e.g., after acute stress, generally depresses the CA1 hippocampal output. A similar effect is seen after adrenalectomy, indicating a U-shaped dose-response dependency of these cellular responses after the exposure to corticosterone. 4. Corticosterone through GR blocks the stress-induced HPA activation in hypothalamic CRH neurons and modulates the activity of the excitatory and inhibitory neural inputs to these neurons. Limbic (e.g., hippocampal) MRs mediate the effect of corticosterone on the maintenance of basal HPA activity and are of relevance for the sensitivity or threshold of the central stress response system. How this control occurs is not known, but it probably involves a steady excitatory hippocampal output, which regulates a GABA-ergic inhibitory tone on PVN neurons. Colocalized hippocampal GRs mediate a counteracting (i.e., disinhibitory) influence. Through GRs in ascending aminergic pathways, corticosterone potentiates the effect of stressors and arousal on HPA activation. The functional interaction between these corticosteroid-responsive inputs at the level of the PVN is probably the key to understanding HPA dysregulation associated with stress-related brain disorders. 5. Fine-tuning of HPA regulation occurs through MR- and GR-mediated effects on the processing of information in higher brain structures. Under healthy conditions, hippocampal MRs are involved in processes underlying integration of sensory information, interpretation of environmental information, and execution of appropriate behavioral reactions. Activation of hippocampal GRs facilitates storage of information and promotes elimination of inadequate behavioral responses. These behavioral effects mediated by MR and GR are linked, but how they influence endocrine regulation is not well understood. 6. Dexamethasone preferentially targets the pituitary in the blockade of stress-induced HPA activation. The brain penetration of this synthetic glucocorticoid is hampered by the mdr1a P-glycoprotein in the blood-brain barrier. Administration of moderate amounts of dexamethasone partially depletes the brain of corticosterone, and this has destabilizing consequences for excitability and information processing. 7. The set points of HPA regulation and MR/GR balance are genetically programmed, but can be reset by early life experiences involving mother-infant interaction. 8. (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED)
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              Assessing substrates underlying the behavioral effects of antidepressants using the modified rat forced swimming test.

              Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most widely prescribed antidepressant class today and exert their antidepressant-like effects by increasing synaptic concentrations of serotonin (5-HT). The rat forced swim test (FST) is the most widely used animal test predictive of antidepressant action. Procedural modifications recently introduced by our laboratory have enabled SSRI-induced behavioral responses to be measured in the modified FST. The use of this model to understand the pharmacological and physiological mechanisms underlying the role of 5-HT in the behavioral effects of antidepressant drugs is reviewed. Although all antidepressants reduced behavioral immobility, those antidepressants that increase serotonergic neurotransmission predominantly increase swimming behavior whereas those that increase catacholaminergic neurotransmission increase climbing behavior. The 5-HT(1A), 5-HT(1B/1D) and 5-HT(2C) receptors are the 5-HT receptors most important to the therapeutic effects of SSRIs, based on extensive evaluation of agonists and antagonists of individual 5-HT receptor subtypes. Studies involving chronic administration have shown that the effects of antidepressants are augmented following chronic treatment. Other studies have demonstrated strain differences in the response to serotonergic compounds. Finally, a physiological model of performance in the rat FST has been proposed involving the regulation of 5-HT transmission by corticotropin releasing factor (CRF).

                Author and article information

                Nature Publishing Group
                March 2011
                15 December 2010
                1 March 2011
                : 36
                : 4
                : 793-804
                [1 ]Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of Pharmacy and Center for Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck (CMBI), Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck , Innsbruck, Austria
                Author notes
                [* ]Leopold-Franzens-University of Innsbruck, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology , Peter Mayr-Street1, Innsbruck A-6020, Austria, Tel: +43 512 507 5623, Fax: +43-512-507-2760, E-mail: karl.ebner@
                Copyright © 2011 American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

                This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit

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