Bart A Ellenbroek Edwin J Geven and Alexander R Cools

Department Psychoneuropharmacology, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Abstract: The ability to successfully cope with the challenges of everyday life is essential for the survival of the species. In order to achieve this each organism is equipped with several systems, the two most important ones being the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) (and especially the sympathetic branch of this system). Even though these so-called stress systems are tightly regulated and play such a critical role in survival and maintaining the homeostasis, large differences exist between individuals in their response to stressors. These differences are due to an interaction between genetic and early environmental factors, which shape the individuals' reaction to such stimuli. Aim of the present chapter is to give an overview of the differences that exist between different strains of rats. We have thereby focused on the most often used strains in neurobiological and neuroendocrinological research. Since alterations in the stress response occurs in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders, knowledge of the differences in stress response between different strains are important to develop novel animal models for these diseases.

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