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A single stressful event may cause long-term effects in the brain22-11-2016

Molecular Psychiatry publishes a study by the University of Milan demonstrating that a single stressful event may cause long-term consequences in the brain.

neuronsA recent study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, demonstrates that a single stressful event may cause long-term consequences in the brain. The study has been coordinated by Laura Musazzi and Maurizio Popoli, of the department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Milan,

The authors had found earlier that a short protocol of stress (40 min) enhances the release of glutamate (the major excitatory transmitter) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), an effect due mainly to an increase in the number of glutamate-containing vesicles available for release at synapses.

They found now that the enhancement of glutamate release in PFC is sustained for at least 24 hours after stress. They also found that after 24 hours significant atrophy of apical dendrites (the receiving part of neurons containing receptors for glutamate) is observed in PFC. Dendrite atrophy is usually measured after weeks of chronic stress in stress-based animal models.

These results completely change our traditional distinction between the effects of acute vs chronic stress.

It appears that a single exposure to stress may have long-term functional (glutamate release) and structural (dendrite atrophy) consequences. The dendrite atrophy was found to be sustained for 2 weeks after stress.

These stress-related changes may be relevant for pathophysiology of PTSD and other stress-related disorders. Moreover, the assessment of glutamate release and related parameters after stress represents an experimental model to test new compounds for therapy of PTSD, a disorder in which an efficient therapy is still missing.

For more information
The University of Milan
Department of Pharmacological and Biomedical Sciences
Prof. Maurizio Popoli
Dr. Laura Musazzi