Control over Stress, But Not Stress Per Se Increases
Prefrontal Cortical Pyramidal Neuron Excitability
Juan A. Varela,
1* Jungang Wang,1,2* John P. Christianson,2 Steven F. Maier,2 and Donald C. Cooper1,2 Institute for Behavioral Genetics and 2Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309
Behavioral control over a stressful event reduces the negative consequences of not only that event, but also future stressful events. Plasticity in the prelimbic (PL) medial prefrontal cortex is critical to this process, but the nature of the changes induced is unknown. We used patch-clamp recording to measure the intrinsic excitability of PL pyramidal neurons in acute slices from rats exposed to either escapable stress (ES), for which rats had behavioral control over tail-shock termination, or inescapable stress (IS) without control. Shortly after exposure (2 h) to tail-shock stress, neurons in the ES group had larger action potential (AP) amplitude and faster AP rise rate, larger postspike afterdepolarization, and reduced membrane time constant. No significant effects of IS were observed. We developed a conductance-based computer model using the simulation tool NEURON. The computer model simulated the observed changes in the ES group with increases in Na that behavioral control over stress, but not stress itself, increases PL pyramidal neuron excitability by increasing intrinsic membrane excitability. It is proposed that plasticity of excitability is important to the behavioral effects of controllable stressor exposure.