Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the hippocampus is reduced in response to acute, as well as repeated immobilization stress. This effect might be mediated by corticosterone, because corticosterone administration is known to reduce hippocampal BDNF. However, rats subjected to a learning paradigm showed an increased BDNF expression in the hippocampus despite the high corticosterone levels found during the test. To dissect the relative contributions of learning and stress to the overall changes in BDNF levels we set up an experimental model in which two groups of rats received the same amount of stress, but only one group had the possibility to learn how to avoid it. Using this model, we now report that learning and stress exert an opposite modulation on BDNF levels in the hippocampus, and that the increasing effect of learning predominates over the decreasing effect of stress.
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