Research Topic

Examining Mechanisms via which Traumatic Stress Leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Using Animal Models: Advantages, Pitfalls, and Future Directions

About this Research Topic

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental health disorder that has a tremendous economic burden associated with it. Examining the neurobiological mechanisms via which traumatic stress events lead to specific PTSD symptoms represent a core research interest for clinicians and basic scientists worldwide.

There have been a number of animal models of PTSD that have been acceptable to the field. While no animal model of PTSD can fully model all aspects of PTSD, animal models have been helpful in expanding what is known about the neurobiology of PTSD. Examining the neurobiology of fear and extinction learning and memory using Pavlovian fear conditioning can be relevant to understanding PTSD symptomatology and has provided a ‘basic framework’, for how aberrant fear and extinction memory could contribute to persistent fear memory in PTSD.

Animal models are useful for elucidating and investigating the effects of traumatic stress on neurobiological function. In these types of experiments, a scientist can control variables and establish relationships between traumatic stress and specific behaviors that model specific PTSD symptoms. However, modeling core PTSD symptoms in experimental animal models does not come without challenges.

There are some limitations with animal models that can be difficult to appreciate especially within research laboratory settings. In this context, it is particularly important to address the susceptibility difference to traumatic stress, between females and males, when studying the underlying mechanisms and consequent effects. Virtually all animal models of PTSD fall short of advancing the field in this regard, as the susceptibility to traumatic stress that is observed in female humans is not typically recapitulated (if at all) in PTSD animal models.

There are a number of reasons for this.

1) Inertia. It can be hard to change a practice once it has been established. Early experiments using animal models in stress research typically employed male animals. As a result, this approach is still well established, although luckily, some research centers have started requiring sex-specific distinctions in experimental setups.

2) It is very difficult to model sex influences in PTSD in rodents; female rodents do not readily show stress susceptibility effects. At least not with behavioral paradigms developed in male animals.

This Research Topic aims to examine PTSD key features and illustrate how specific aspects of PTSD can be modeled (e.g. persistent fear memory, social avoidance, enhanced arousal).

We especially welcome studies highlighting the experimental challenges researchers face when trying to examine and quantify sex influences in PTSD animal models, even with null results of PTSD.

We welcome original research contributions, primarily basic science, but also clinical studies addressing the following, but not limited topics, helping to elucidate PTSD mechanisms and behavioral effects:

• Sex influences on traumatic stress effects
• Traumatic stress effects on persistent fear memory
• Traumatic stress effects on social interactions
• Effects of traumatic stress on arousal
• Effects of traumatic stress on hippocampal function
• Effects of traumatic stress from a circuit perspective: functional connectivity between the mPFC and amygdala
• Effects of traumatic stress on unconditioned anxiety
• Effects of traumatic stress on dissociation


Keywords: PTSD, single prolonged stress, sex differences, fear, anxiety


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental health disorder that has a tremendous economic burden associated with it. Examining the neurobiological mechanisms via which traumatic stress events lead to specific PTSD symptoms represent a core research interest for clinicians and basic scientists worldwide.

There have been a number of animal models of PTSD that have been acceptable to the field. While no animal model of PTSD can fully model all aspects of PTSD, animal models have been helpful in expanding what is known about the neurobiology of PTSD. Examining the neurobiology of fear and extinction learning and memory using Pavlovian fear conditioning can be relevant to understanding PTSD symptomatology and has provided a ‘basic framework’, for how aberrant fear and extinction memory could contribute to persistent fear memory in PTSD.

Animal models are useful for elucidating and investigating the effects of traumatic stress on neurobiological function. In these types of experiments, a scientist can control variables and establish relationships between traumatic stress and specific behaviors that model specific PTSD symptoms. However, modeling core PTSD symptoms in experimental animal models does not come without challenges.

There are some limitations with animal models that can be difficult to appreciate especially within research laboratory settings. In this context, it is particularly important to address the susceptibility difference to traumatic stress, between females and males, when studying the underlying mechanisms and consequent effects. Virtually all animal models of PTSD fall short of advancing the field in this regard, as the susceptibility to traumatic stress that is observed in female humans is not typically recapitulated (if at all) in PTSD animal models.

There are a number of reasons for this.

1) Inertia. It can be hard to change a practice once it has been established. Early experiments using animal models in stress research typically employed male animals. As a result, this approach is still well established, although luckily, some research centers have started requiring sex-specific distinctions in experimental setups.

2) It is very difficult to model sex influences in PTSD in rodents; female rodents do not readily show stress susceptibility effects. At least not with behavioral paradigms developed in male animals.

This Research Topic aims to examine PTSD key features and illustrate how specific aspects of PTSD can be modeled (e.g. persistent fear memory, social avoidance, enhanced arousal).

We especially welcome studies highlighting the experimental challenges researchers face when trying to examine and quantify sex influences in PTSD animal models, even with null results of PTSD.

We welcome original research contributions, primarily basic science, but also clinical studies addressing the following, but not limited topics, helping to elucidate PTSD mechanisms and behavioral effects:

• Sex influences on traumatic stress effects
• Traumatic stress effects on persistent fear memory
• Traumatic stress effects on social interactions
• Effects of traumatic stress on arousal
• Effects of traumatic stress on hippocampal function
• Effects of traumatic stress from a circuit perspective: functional connectivity between the mPFC and amygdala
• Effects of traumatic stress on unconditioned anxiety
• Effects of traumatic stress on dissociation


Keywords: PTSD, single prolonged stress, sex differences, fear, anxiety


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2021 Abstract
31 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 January 2021 Abstract
31 August 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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