Presentation Title

Anxiety Responses Across the Estrous Cycle in Relation to BNST-PACAP Interactions

Project Collaborators

Sayamwong "Jom" Hammack (Collaborating Mentor)

Location

Dewey Hall

Abstract

There are currently a few standard treatment options available for patients attempting to combat their anxiety, the most common being cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s). Although these methods alone or in some combination work for a considerable amount of people, many are still left struggling to find an effective treatment for their chronic anxiety (Northwestern University, 2009). Because not everyone responds to the conventional anxiety treatment regimen, a number of scientists have begun to explore dysregulation in other systems that might be related to human psychiatric disorders. In addition to the need for new ideas about where anxiety disorders may lie, it is important that researchers begin to include female animals in their studies, particularly in neuroscience research. Not only do women have a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders than men (McLean et al., 2011), but bias towards using male animals in studies was found to be the greatest in the neuroscience field. Pituitary adenylate cyclase modulating protein (PACAP) is a molecule that is thought to play a role in regulating anxiety-like behavior in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) (King, Toufexis, & Hammack, 2017). In humans, PACAP has been shown to have sex-specific effects, and is associated with PTSD in women (Ressler et al., 2011). The goal of this project is to explore this sex-specific link in greater detail. This was accomplished by examining anxiety behaviors across the estrous cycle in relation to the presence or absence of PACAP in the BNST. Female rats underwent stereotaxic surgery and cannulas were inserted into the BNST. Following a recovery and estrous cycle tracking period, rats at various stages of the cycle were intra-cranially injected with either PACAP or a vehicle. Anxiety behaviors were operationalized by categorizing responses in an elevated plus maze. It was expected that when intra-BNST PACAP is tested across the estrous cycle, anxiety-like behavior will be higher when female sex hormone levels are higher (e.g. proestrus and estrus).

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Sayamwong "Jom" Hammack

Graduate Student Mentors

Melissa Boucher

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Neuroscience

Primary Research Category

Biological Sciences

Second Program/Major

Pharmacology

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Anxiety Responses Across the Estrous Cycle in Relation to BNST-PACAP Interactions

There are currently a few standard treatment options available for patients attempting to combat their anxiety, the most common being cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCA’s). Although these methods alone or in some combination work for a considerable amount of people, many are still left struggling to find an effective treatment for their chronic anxiety (Northwestern University, 2009). Because not everyone responds to the conventional anxiety treatment regimen, a number of scientists have begun to explore dysregulation in other systems that might be related to human psychiatric disorders. In addition to the need for new ideas about where anxiety disorders may lie, it is important that researchers begin to include female animals in their studies, particularly in neuroscience research. Not only do women have a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders than men (McLean et al., 2011), but bias towards using male animals in studies was found to be the greatest in the neuroscience field. Pituitary adenylate cyclase modulating protein (PACAP) is a molecule that is thought to play a role in regulating anxiety-like behavior in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) (King, Toufexis, & Hammack, 2017). In humans, PACAP has been shown to have sex-specific effects, and is associated with PTSD in women (Ressler et al., 2011). The goal of this project is to explore this sex-specific link in greater detail. This was accomplished by examining anxiety behaviors across the estrous cycle in relation to the presence or absence of PACAP in the BNST. Female rats underwent stereotaxic surgery and cannulas were inserted into the BNST. Following a recovery and estrous cycle tracking period, rats at various stages of the cycle were intra-cranially injected with either PACAP or a vehicle. Anxiety behaviors were operationalized by categorizing responses in an elevated plus maze. It was expected that when intra-BNST PACAP is tested across the estrous cycle, anxiety-like behavior will be higher when female sex hormone levels are higher (e.g. proestrus and estrus).