Individual variability in behavior and functional networks predicts vulnerability using an animal model of PTSD

David Dopfel, Pablo D. Perez, Alexander Verbitsky, Hector Bravo-Rivera, Yuncong Ma, Gregory J. Quirk, Nanyin Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Only a minority of individuals experiencing trauma subsequently develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, whether differences in vulnerability to PTSD result from a predisposition or trauma exposure remains unclear. A major challenge in differentiating these possibilities is that clinical studies focus on individuals already exposed to trauma without pre-trauma conditions. Here, using the predator scent model of PTSD in rats and a longitudinal design, we measure pre-trauma brain-wide neural circuit functional connectivity, behavioral and corticosterone responses to trauma exposure, and post-trauma anxiety. Freezing during predator scent exposure correlates with functional connectivity in a set of neural circuits, indicating pre-existing circuit function can predispose animals to differential fearful responses to threats. Counterintuitively, rats with lower freezing show more avoidance of the predator scent, a prolonged corticosterone response, and higher anxiety long after exposure. This study provides a framework of pre-existing circuit function that determines threat responses, which might directly relate to PTSD-like behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2372
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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