Repeated bouts of a major stressor such as social defeat are well known to induce a depression phenotype in male rats. Despite strong evidence and acknowledgement that women have a two-fold lifetime greater risk of developing major depression compared to men, the inclusion of female rats in studies employing social defeat are very rare; their absence is attributed to less aggressive interactions. This study sought to compare in male and female rats the impact of repeated social defeat, three times per week for four weeks, on the development of changes in sleep architecture and continuity, sucrose preference as a measure of anhedonia, changes in body weight, and basal plasma corticosterone levels. We found significant reductions in rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) during the light phase in both females and males, and significant increases in numbers of vigilance state transitions during the early dark phase in females but not in males. Additionally, females exhibited significantly greater reductions in sucrose intake than males. On the other hand, no sex differences in significantly elevated basal corticosterone levels were evident, and only the males exhibited changes in body weight. Taken together these findings suggest that the inclusion of female rats in studies of social defeat may offer greater insights in studies of stress and depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience