Research Topic

Using stress-based animal models to understand the mechanisms underlying psychiatric and somatic disorders

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Chronic stress, particularly chronic psychosocial stress, represents a large burden in modern societies and is an acknowledged risk factor for numerous affective and somatic disorders. Thus, there is substantial evidence showing that chronic stress can increase for instance the likelihood of major depressive ...

Chronic stress, particularly chronic psychosocial stress, represents a large burden in modern societies and is an acknowledged risk factor for numerous affective and somatic disorders. Thus, there is substantial evidence showing that chronic stress can increase for instance the likelihood of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders, as well as cardiovascular diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and/or inflammation-related colon cancer, to name but a few, in vulnerable individuals. Although a number of pharmacological agents are available to treat such stress-related disorders, many patients do not respond to these, and those who do benefit often report a number of side effects or a delayed onset of action.
Therefore, a major emphasis in modern basic research is to uncover the underlying aetiology of these disorders, and to develop novel efficacious treatment strategies. This has led to a resurgence of interest in developing more relevant animal models. Given the evidence in humans purporting especially chronic psychosocial social stress to be a risk factor for diseases manifestation, recent attempts have focussed on the development of chronic psychosocial stress paradigms. As such paradigms are more relevant to the human situation than non-social stress paradigms, they arebelieved to better reveal the behavioural, neuroendocrine or immunological mechanisms underlying chronic stress-induced pathology. There is also evidence for substantial comorbidity between affective and somatic disorders, and there has been an explosion of research in recent years demonstrating that the gut can influence numerous aspects of physiology and behaviour.

In this research topic, we wish to summarise the current status of basic research into the underlying aetiology of the stress-related disorders discussed above, focusing on chronic psychosocial stressors. These studies encompass not only the underlying etiology of such disorders, but also those that assess stress resilence or stress-protective mechanisms. Moreover, given the recent boom in studying the role of the brain-gut axis, we want to discuss how the gut, particularly the microbiota, influences affective behaviour and physiology. Finally, we want to discuss how these recent findings may lead to novel therapeutic treatments for stress-related disorders and what the future of such research may hold.


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