Rats Could Be Key to Solving Human Depression

TAU researchers find that adolescent stress may protect against suicidal behavior

In a surprising discovery, Tel Aviv University researchers have found that exposure to stress in adolescence may prove to protect against depression and suicidal behavior later in life. This is the case even for adolescents who are genetically predisposed to suicide, says Prof. Gil Zalsman of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

For the study, researchers used the Wistar-Kyoto strain of rats, which possess hormonal and behavioral abnormalities that mimic depressive symptoms in humans. The rats were exposed to various stress-inducing tests throughout different stages in their lifecycle, including being forced to swim or being held in a cage overnight with wet sawdust.

In a second experiment, another group of rats was exposed to a stimulation-rich environment after undergoing stress-inducing tests in childhood to determine if the effects of this childhood stress could be mitigated. The findings suggest that a tendency towards suicidal behavior as a result of exposure to stress is apparently reversible, noted Prof. Zalsman.

This study was recently presented at the 14th European Symposium for Suicide and Suicidal Behavior in Tel Aviv.

For more on how rats are demystifying human depression, see the Ha'aretz story:
"Israeli scientists turn to rats to solve the maze of human depression"

For more psychology and psychiatry news from Tel Aviv University, click here.

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