Differential Effectiveness of Tianeptine, Clonidine and Amitriptyline in Blocking Traumatic Memory Expression, Anxiety and Hypertension in an Animal Model of PTSD

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Animal model, Cardiovascular activity, Corticosterone, Psychophysiology, PTSD, Stress

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Individuals exposed to life-threatening trauma are at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating condition that involves persistent anxiety, intrusive memories and several physiological disturbances. Current pharmacotherapies for PTSD manage only a subset of these symptoms and typically have adverse side effects which limit their overall effectiveness. We evaluated the effectiveness of three different pharmacological agents to ameliorate a broad range of PTSD-like symptoms in our established predator-based animal model of PTSD. Adult male Sprague–Dawley rats were given 1-h cat exposures on two occasions that were separated by 10 days, in conjunction with chronic social instability. Beginning 24 h after the first cat exposure, rats received daily injections of amitriptyline, clonidine, tianeptine or vehicle. Three weeks after the second cat exposure, all rats underwent a battery of behavioral and physiological tests. The vehicle-treated, psychosocially stressed rats demonstrated a robust fear memory for the two cat exposures, as well as increased anxiety expressed on the elevated plus maze, an exaggerated startle response, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, reduced growth rate and increased adrenal gland weight, relative to the vehicle-treated, non-stressed (control) rats. Neither amitriptyline nor clonidine was effective at blocking the entire cluster of stress-induced sequelae, and each agent produced adverse side effects in control subjects. Only the antidepressant tianeptine completely blocked the effects of psychosocial stress on all of the physiological and behavioral measures that were examined. These findings illustrate the differential effectiveness of these three treatments to block components of PTSD-like symptoms in rats, and in particular, reveal the profile of tianeptine as the most effective of all three agents.

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Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, v. 44, p. 1-16