Previous human imaging studies used facial stimuli to explore the potential association between depression and fear. This study aimed at investigating brain alterations in a rodent model of depression when innate fear was induced in the form of the predator odor trimethylthiazoline (TMT). Flinders sensitive line (FSL) rats, a genetic animal model of depression, and their control counterpart Flinders resistant line (FRL), were used in this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) assessment. Compared to FRL, FSL rats exhibited greater BOLD activation in the cortical amygdala and hypoactivation in the prefrontal cortex in response to TMT, suggesting cortico-amygdalar dysfunction in the depressed strain. In addition, the hyperactivation in the insular cortex in FSL rats may be the basis for enhanced neuronal responses to fear and aversion in depression. These results are evidence for the value of translational models of depression in expanding understanding of the neural circuitries sub-serving common human co-morbidities like depression and fear.
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