Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST): A nexus for stress and emotion
Exposure to stressful stimuli has been argued to play an important role in the etiology of anxiety disorders, and increases in anxiety-like behavior are often observed in rodents repeatedly exposed to environmental stressors. Several brain nuclei have been implicated in coordinating the autonomic, endocrine and behavioral response to stressor exposure. In particular, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) has been argued to mediate anxiety-like behavioral responding to long-duration anxiogenic stimuli, and also coordinate autonomic and endocrine stress responses; moreover, neuroplasticity in this region is increased following chronic stress. Recent work in our laboratory has suggested that activation of pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP) systems in the BNST mediates many of the consequences of chronic stress in male and female rats, and these data corroborate gene association studies showing PACAP dysregulation in post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. Hence, BNST PACAP expression may represent a critical nexus by which chronic stress alters emotional responding and stress-related psychopathology.
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