Metyrapone reveals that previous chronic stress differentially impairs hippocampal-dependent memory

Cheryl Conrad, Melissa L. Mauldin-Jourdain, Rebecca J. Hobbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Chronic stress facilitates fear conditioning in rats with hippocampal neuronal atrophy and in rats in which the atrophy is prevented with tianeptine, a serotonin re-uptake enhancer. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the lack of dissociation between fear conditioning performance and hippocampal integrity was masked by the presence of endogenous corticosteroids during training. As in previous studies, rats were stressed by daily restraint (6 h/day for 21 days), trained in the conditioning chamber (day 23), and then assessed for conditioned fear (day 25) at a time when hippocampal dendritic atrophy persists. On the training day, half of the control and stressed rats were injected with metyrapone to reduce corticosterone release. Two hours later, two paired or unpaired presentations of tone and footshock were delivered. Although metyrapone reduced conditioned fear in all rats, only stressed rats showed dissociated fear conditioning (i.e. tone conditioning was reduced while contextual conditioning was eliminated). Chronically stressed rats, regardless of metyrapone treatment displayed more rearing in the open field when tested immediately after the completion of fear conditioning. These data support the hypothesis that increased emotionality and enhanced fear conditioning exhibited by chronically stressed rats may be due to endogenous corticosterone secretion at the time of fear conditioned training. Moreover, these data suggest that chronic stress impairs hippocampal-dependent processes more robustly than hippocampal-independent processes after metyrapone to reduce corticosterone secretion during aversive training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-318
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


  • Amygdala
  • Fear conditioning
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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