Effects of activity-dependent strategies on regeneration and plasticity after peripheral nerve injuries.
The aim of the present study was to monitor the influence of chronic stress on functional recovery from a sciatic nerve crush lesion in the rat. Male Wistar rats underwent standard unilateral sciatic nerve crush. Subsequently, chronic stress was induced during the recovery phase using a daily 30 min shock box session where rats received three electric footshocks each session (0.5 sec, 1 mA). Reduced body weight gain, adrenal gland hypertrophy, and thymus involution indicated that the stress rats were chronically stressed. Evaluation of sensorimotor function revealed significant differences in recovery between control and stress groups. Correlational analysis of individual stress rats indicated that recovery of the walking pattern was negatively correlated with adrenal gland and medulla enlargement, thymus involution, and plasma levels of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone 45 min following the final stress session. In control rats, the index of sciatic nerve function (SF index, expressed as the difference between the injured paw and the intact contralateral paw as a percentage) was significantly correlated with adrenal medulla weight only. The present study reveals that chronic intermittent footshock stress impedes sensorimotor recovery following a sciatic nerve crush lesion and that the consequences of chronic intermittent stress are individually determined. We suggest that the quality of functional locomotor recovery after nerve crush lesion is related to the adaptive capacity or coping style of the individual rat.