Coping with intermittent social stress is an essential aspect of living in complex social environments. Coping tends to counteract the deleterious effects of stress and is thought to induce neuroadaptations in corticolimbic brain systems. Here we test this hypothesis in adult squirrel monkey males exposed to intermittent social separations and new pair formations. These manipulations simulate conditions that typically occur in male social associations because of competition for limited access to residency in mixed-sex groups. As evidence of coping, we previously confirmed that cortisol levels initially increase and then are restored to prestress levels within several days of each separation and new pair formation. Follow-up studies with exogenous cortisol further established that feedback regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is not impaired. Now we report that exposure to intermittent social separations and new pair formations increased hippocampal neurogenesis in squirrel monkey males. Hippocampal neurogenesis in rodents contributes to spatial learning performance, and in monkeys we found that spatial learning was enhanced in conditions that increased hippocampal neurogenesis. Corresponding changes were discerned in the expression of genes involved in survival and integration of adult-born granule cells into hippocampal neural circuits. These findings support recent indications that stress coping stimulates hippocampal neurogenesis in adult rodents. Psychotherapies designed to promote stress coping potentially have similar effects in humans with major depression.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Coping with stress stimulates new brain cell growth.
Interesting stuff from Lyons et al., experiments on monkeys which look like they would extrapolate to us humans: