Early Adolescent Stressors Increase Depression and Anxiety in Rats

There is an abundance of research that demonstrates a clear link between childhood trauma and adult depression and anxiety. There are also many studies that show a relationship between adolescent and young adult stress and later psychological problems. The existing research on adolescent stress and future mental health challenges is broad but limited because of its retrospective nature. Human stress is usually classified as either abuse or trauma, and because of its sporadic and often brief nature it is difficult to measure accurately. Therefore, to draw a clearer picture of how the timing of stress affects adult mental health, Meaghan M. Wilkin of the Department of Psychology at Queen’s University in Ontario conducted a simulated stress test on 76 three-week-old rats.

Wilkin applied three stressful stimuli to the rats at both early adolescence and mid-adolescence to determine if the psychological outcome in adulthood would vary based on when the stress occurred. After 12 days of stimuli, the rats were evaluated for depressive and anxious behaviors. Wilkin discovered that the rats who were exposed to stressful stimuli in early adolescence exhibited higher levels of anxiety and depression. Additionally, the male rats that received early adolescent stimuli were more likely to avoid risk taking behavior later on. This effect was reversed in the rats that were exposed to midadolescent stress. However, depressive behaviors were evident in all the rats, regardless of when they experienced stress.

These findings shed new light on the long-term effects of stress experienced during childhood and adolescence. Overall, the earlier the stress occurs the broader the effect, specifically for the male rats tested here. These results may prove valuable to researchers exploring the influence of age of onset, gender, and type of stress in future studies aimed at addressing risk factors related to adult depression and anxiety. Wilkin added, “Future work is needed to uncover the underlying neurobiological mechanisms responsible for the differential outcomes of early and midadolescence stress.”

Wilkin, M. M., Menard, J. L., Waters, P., McCormick, C. M. (2012). Intermittent physical stress during early- and mid-adolescence differentially alters rats’ anxiety- and depression-like behaviors in adulthood. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126.2, 344-360.

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  • Cath


    May 16th, 2012 at 5:38 AM

    We all know that children are pretty dang resilient, but there are still events and situations that happen to the early in life that they may not necessarily know how to cope with. So they push all of those feelings deep down inside. And that works okay for a while, but we all know that sooner or later the past will come back to haunt you and then they will have to deal with those events. Even the things that they thought that they had pushed away and would not have to deal with, they come back, and many times feeling them all over again as ana dult is evne more difficult because you have come to understand exactly what has happened to you. I would hope for someone to never have to face this, but finding a good therapist at this time of life can be so critical to finding yourself again and finding healing and peace from the events of the past.

  • Harper


    May 16th, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    So the earlier the stressful actions occurred the more widely felt the anxiety is later in life? I guess our minds remember farther back then we even thought.

  • Karl


    May 16th, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    I think because we develop mentally and strengthen ourselves psychologically as we grow up, the trauma in early years has a bigger effect than the same in adolescence. The stronger we are when the trauma occurs, the lesser effect it has!

  • Corina


    November 26th, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Thanks for discussing your ideas. I’d also like to express that video games have been ever before
    evolving. Technology advances and innovations have made
    it simpler to create realistic and interactive games. These types of entertainment games were not
    actually sensible when the real concept was first of all being experimented with.

    Just like other areas of electronics, video games
    way too have had to develop by many years. This itself is testimony for the fast continuing development of video games.

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