Early Post-Stressor Intervention with High-Dose Corticosterone Attenuates Posttraumatic Stress Response in an Animal Model of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Academic Article uri icon


  • Background The therapeutic value of corticosteroids in the aftermath of traumatic experience has been questioned. We used an animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to assess long-term behavioral effects of a single administration of various doses of corticosterone (CORT), administered immediately after exposure to psychogenic stress. Methods Animals were exposed to predator scent stress and treated 1 hour later with various doses of CORT or saline. The outcome measures included behavior in an elevated plus-maze (EPM) and acoustic startle response (ASR) 30 days after the initial exposure and freezing behavior upon exposure to a trauma-related cue on day 31. Pre-set cut-off behavioral criteria (CBC) classified exposed animals according to behavioral responses in EPM and ASR paradigms as those with “extreme behavioral response,” “minimal behavioral response,” or “intermediate response.” Non-spatial memory task and 24-hour locomotor activity were assessed immediately after injection with CORT or vehicle. Results Early treatment with high-dose CORT reduced the prevalence of PTSD-like behavioral responses relative to saline-control treatment. Cue-induced freezing was significantly lower in the high-dose CORT-treated group. Lower doses of CORT significantly increased anxiety-like behavior, mean startle amplitude, and prevalence of PTSD-like behavioral disruptions, compared with saline-control treatment. The attenuated cue-responsiveness and impaired performance on a memory task imply that one key factor in this effect is the disruption of traumatic memory consolidation. Conclusions Single treatment with high-dose CORT immediately after stressful exposure reduces the prevalence rate of extreme behavioral disruption 30 days later. Corticosterone might disrupt the consolidation of aversive or fearful memories.

publication date

  • October 15, 2008