This article on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) discusses the study of animal responses to extreme stress or trauma as a means to better understand and treat PTSD in humans. From the article: "The animal model of inescapable stress mimics the exposure to extreme stress seen in patients with PTSD. Animals exposed to inescapable stress develop specific behavioral changes including deficits of memory, learned helplessness, and conditioned fear responses to stressors, which are associated with long-term changes in multiple neurobiological systems. This model has proven useful in the study of the neurobiological and behavioral consequences of trauma. In this issue we review animal models and preclinical research on the neurobiology of trauma. [...] Clinicians will notice parallels between the behavioral and biological sequelae of inescapable stress and the phenomenology of PTSD symptoms in their patients. The animal model of inescapable stress parallels the experience of being pinned down in combat or being the victim of repeated assaults. Inescapable stress produces a variety of behaviors in animals including abnormal alarm states, aggression, sensitivity to stress, altered sleep patterns, deficits in learning and memory, and withdrawal. These behaviors resemble those seen in patients with PTSD. As reviewed above, there are also a variety of neurobiological alterations produced by exposure to inescapable stress. This may provide a framework in which to conduct investigations designed to determine if similar changes occur in PTSD. For instance, evidence from animal findings of alterations in noradrenergic brain systems is consistent with emerging findings of abnormalities in noradrenergic systems in patients with PTSD as evidenced by abnormal responses to the alpha-2 noradrenergic receptor antagonist yohimbine. The identification of specific neurobiological abnormalities may lead to the development of new psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic treatments based on the pathophysiology of PTSD."
National Center for PTSD: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/
PTSD Research Quarterly (Fall 1991), v.2 no.4