Public Release: 

Scientists get $3.2 million to study brain mechanisms underlying sex differences in social stress

Georgia State University

The Center for Behavioral Neuroscience (CBN) at Georgia State University has received a five-year, $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to investigate the neurochemical mechanisms underlying social stress in males and females.

Elliott Albers from the CBN and Mark Wilson from Emory University's Yerkes National Primate Research Center hope to define the differences in how brain mechanisms promote resilience to social stress in males and females. Specifically, they will investigate how two chemicals in the brain--vasopressin and serotonin--act to alter the responsivity to social stress.

Using hamsters and rhesus monkeys, the project will test the hypothesis that phenotypes characterized by dominance and active coping strategies are more resilient to stress than those characterized by subordinate status.

"We are excited by the potential of this innovative research to both define the basic brain mechanisms involved in regulating the expression of social behavior and to have a substantial translational impact by defining gender-specific strategies for promoting stress resilience in the development of treatments for psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD," said Albers, CBN director and Regents Professor of Neuroscience. "Our studies have the potential to have an almost immediate clinical impact by guiding different drug treatments for stress reduction in men and women as well as by guiding drug development."

"This project holds the promise of identifying sex differences in mechanisms responsible for resilience to social stressors that have tremendous translational value to identify interventional strategies to reduce the health burden chronic stress causes people," said Wilson, professor of developmental and cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine."

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