Acute and long-term behavioral correlates of underwater trauma- potential relevance to stress and post-stress syndromes

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As a consequence of a brief but significantly extreme stressor, an individual will experience a stress response, which may sometimes develop into Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Though a rat model for ASD and PTSD is not expected to encompass the richness and complexity of the disorders in humans, it will enable the study of the common underlying mechanisms that generate the disorders, the study of pre- trauma etiological aspects of the disorders and the screening of drugs with potential relevance to the treatment of the disorders. One well-documented aspect of PTSD is the enhancing influence of contextual elements on the appearance of symptoms of the post-stress trauma. To exploit this effect, we have chosen to assess the effects of an underwater trauma in the Morris water maze since the effects of such trauma on memory and attention can be later evaluated in the context of the trauma. At both 1 h and 3 weeks after the trauma, significant behavioral deficits were observed in the water maze. The effects of the underwater trauma on the performance of rats in the water maze were context specific. Underwater trauma in a different (out-of-context) water container had no effects on the ability of rats to perform a spatial memory task in the water maze. An elevated level of anxiety was found in the plus maze test, independently of whether the trauma was performed in the water maze or in a different (out-of-context) water container. The results indicate that a within-context underwater trauma has both acute and lasting behavioral consequences which can be assessed using a spatial memory test in the context of the trauma. The results are discussed in relation to their relevance to stress and PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-83
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jun 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author is thankful to M. Law and L. Yehya for their technical help and to Prof. E. Klein, Prof. B. Berger and Dr. D. Ben Schachar for fruitful discussions. The work was supported by an `Alon' fellowship to G.R-L. and a research grant from `Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries LTD' to G.R-L.


  • Contextual learning
  • Spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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