Updates in PTSD Animal Models Characterization

  • Lei ZhangEmail author
  • Xian-Zhang Hu
  • He Li
  • Xiaoxia Li
  • Tianzheng Yu
  • Jacob Dohl
  • Robert J. Ursano
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 2011)


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a chronic, debilitating mental disorder afflicting more than 7% of the US population and 12% of military service members. Since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, thousands of US service members have returned home with PTSD. Despite recent progress, the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathology of PTSD are poorly understood. To promote research on PTSD (especially its molecular mechanisms) and to set a molecular basis for discovering novel medications for this disorder, well-validated animal models are needed. However, to develop PTSD animal models is a challenging process, due to predisposing factors such as physiological, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes that emerge after trauma. Currently, there is no well-validated animal model of PTSD, although several stress paradigms mimic the behavioral symptoms and neurological alterations seen in PTSD. In this chapter, we will provide an overview of animal models of PTSD including learned helplessness, footshock, restraint stress, inescapable tail shock, single-prolonged stress, underwater trauma, social isolation, social defeat, early-life stress, and predator-based stress. We emphasize rodent models because they reproduce some of the behavioral and biotical phenotypes seen in PTSD. We will also present data showing that homologous biological measures are increasingly incorporated in studies to assess markers of risk and therapeutic response in these models. Therefore, PTSD animal models may be refined in hopes of capitalizing on the understanding of the molecular mechanisms and delivering tools in order to develop new and more efficacious treatments for PTSD.

Key words

PTSD Animal model Stress Trauma Footshock 



We thank Supriya Prabhakar, Berwin Yuan, Ze Chen, Alexis Shahidi, and Nora Wang for their editing of this manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lei Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Xian-Zhang Hu
    • 1
  • He Li
    • 1
  • Xiaoxia Li
    • 1
  • Tianzheng Yu
    • 2
  • Jacob Dohl
    • 2
  • Robert J. Ursano
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Center for the Study of Traumatic StressUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Consortium for Health and Military PerformanceUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA

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