Effects of chronic restraint stress (21 and 28 days) on physiological and behavioral parameters in female rats were examined. Total (bound and free) and free corticosterone (CORT) levels were measured at different time points during the stress period. Higher total CORT levels were observed in stressed rats during the stress period but returned to baseline at 15 days poststress. Additionally, free CORT levels decreased across the stress period. Estrous cyclicity was monitored daily in all animals. Stress had no apparent effects on estrous cyclicity, in rats with either normal length or elongated estrous cycles, but stressed females gained less weight than controls. Following the stress period, subjects were tested for open field activity and radial arm maze (RAM) performance. Females stressed for 21 days showed enhanced spatial memory performance on the RAM. A longer period of restraint, 28 days, also led to less weight gain by stressed subjects and unaltered estrous cycle lengths, but was not associated with enhanced RAM performance. Further analysis indicated that RAM performance was influenced by specific estrous cycle day, particularly during proestrus. Following 21 days of restraint stress all animals in proestrus, regardless of treatment, showed impaired acquisition. After 28 days, stressed females in proestrus performed better than proestrus controls. These results are discussed in relation to previously reported effects of stress in male rats.
Bowman, R.E., Zrull, M.C., & Luine, V.L. (2001). Chronic restraint stress enhances radial arm maze performance in female rats. Brain Research, 904(2): 279-289. doi: 10.1016/S0006-8993(01)02474-X