Do stress hormones connect environmental effects with behavior in the forced swim test?

Ottó Pintér, Ágnes Domokos, Zsuzsa Mergl, Éva Mikics, Dóra Zelena

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Forced swim test (FST) is a widely used test for antidepressant development. Depression is a stress related disease, as hormones of the stress-axis can modify mood. However it is not clear, how the appearance of depressive-like behavior (floating) in FST is connected with changes in the stress-hormone levels. We hypothesized, that different manipulations would alter the behavior through changes in stress-hormone levels. First the effect of environmental alterations was studied. Increasing water-temperature enhanced floating time together with a decrease in adrenocorticotro-pin levels. During the dark phase of the day rats spent more time with floating independently from the actual lighting. Neither the phase nor the actual lighting had significant effect on adrenocorticotropin concentrations with higher corticosterone levels during the dark phase. At greater water depth rats float less but the size of animals had no effect. Water depth did not influence adrenocorticotropin and corticosterone responses, but the size of the rats significantly affected both factors. Secondly, administration of imipramine reduced floating and adrenocorticotropin level without affecting corticosterone. Despite the known connection between depression and stress we did not find a correlation between floating behavior and hormone levels. As an alternative mechanism imipramine-induced heart rate and core body temperature decrease was found by telemetric approach. This study is the first summary in rats examining the effect of wide range of environmental alterations during FST. It seems likely that both brain monoamines and stress-axis take part in the development of depression, but these pathways are regulated independently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-407
Number of pages13
JournalEndocrine Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 10 2011



  • ACTH
  • Corticosterone
  • Depression
  • Environment
  • Forced swim test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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