Restraint elicits a number of physiological stress responses that can be increased or decreased in magnitude based on prior stress history. For instance, repeated exposure to restraint leads to habituation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activation to restraint. In contrast, acute restraint after a different repeated stressor leads to facilitation of HPA activity to the novel stress. Acute restraint also elicits a variety of behaviors, including struggling, but the effect of prior stress in regulating behavioral responses to restraint is not clear. The goal of the present studies was to assess struggling during restraint with or without a prior history of repeated stress. Using automated behavioral analysis software (EthoVision), we quantified struggling during restraint. We found that acutely restrained rats exhibited vigorous struggling behavior that declined during a single restraint period. Repeated restraint lead to habituated struggling behavior, whereas acute restraint after repeated swim elicited facilitated struggling behavior. These effects on struggling were found alongside expected differences in HPA activity. Removing stress-induced increases in corticosterone via adrenalectomy did not significantly affect struggling responses to restraint. Overall, restraint-induced struggling appears to be regulated in a manner similar to HPA responses to restraint, but is not dictated by adrenal hormones.
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