Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Linda Sterrenburg (Donders Series 93)

October 26, 2012.

Promotors: Prof. dr. E.W. Roubos, Prof. dr. B.W.M.M. Peeters, Copromotor: dr. T.L. Kozicz

The stress response of forebrain and midbrain regions: neuropeptides, sex-specificity and epigenetics

Stress is one of the most important risk factors for the development of major depressive disorder (MDD).

MDD affects 5-8% of the population with an incidence twice as high in women as in men, and the etiology and underlying pathobiology of MDD is largely unknown. In this research the sex-dependent responses of several stress-sensitive brain regions in rodent animal models (rat) were studied in response to acute and chronic stressors. It was shown that the mammalian stress response is stressor-, sex- and brain region-specific and might result in epigenetic changes. The fact that upon chronic stress male animals revealed substantially more signs of neuronal activation than females may indicate that the latter are less capable of evoking a successful stress adaptation response, a situation that might play, at least partly, a role in the preferential incidence of depression in women. Hopefully, our research data will contribute to the further elucidation of the (epigenetic, sex-dependent) mechanisms underlying maladaptation to adverse environmental conditions and the resulting mental and physical disorders thereof.