Substantial evidence has suggested that the brain structures of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala (AMYG) are implicated in the pathophysiology of stress-related disorders. However, little is known with respect to the system-level adaptation of their neural circuitries to the perturbations of traumatic stressors. By utilizing behavioral tests and an awake animal imaging approach, in the present study we non-invasively investigated the impact of single-episode predator odor exposure in an inescapable environment on behaviors and neural circuits in rodents. We found that predator odor exposure significantly increased the freezing behavior. In addition, animals exhibited heightened anxiety levels seven days after the exposure. Intriguingly, we also found that the intrinsic functional connectivity within the AMYG-mPFC circuit was considerably compromised seven days after the traumatic event. Our data provide neuroimaging evidence suggesting that prolonged neuroadaptation induced by a single episode of traumatic stress can be non-invasively detected in rodents. These results also support the face validity and construction validity of using the paradigm of single trauma exposure in an inescapable environment as an animal model for post-traumatic stress disorder. Taken together, the present study has opened a new avenue to investigating animal models of stress-related mental disorders by going beyond static neuroanatomy, and ultimately bridging the gap between basic biomedical and human imaging research.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jean_king/70/