Role of Endogenous and Exogenous Corticosterone on Behavioral and Cognitive Responses to Low-Pressure Blast Wave Exposure

Amitai Zuckerman, Omri Ram, Gal Ifergane, Michael A. Matar, Zeev Kaplan, Jay R. Hoffman, Oren Sadot, Hagit Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The complex interactions and overlapping symptoms of comorbid post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) induced by an explosive blast wave have become a focus of attention in recent years, making clinical distinction and effective intervention difficult. Because dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis is thought to underlie trauma-related (psycho)pathology, we evaluated both the endogenous corticosterone response and the efficacy of exogenous hydrocortisone treatment provided shortly after blast exposure. We employed a controlled experimental blast-wave paradigm in which unanesthetized animals were exposed to visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile effects of an explosive blast wave produced by exploding a thin copper wire. Endogenous corticosterone concentrations were evaluated at different time points (before, and 3 h, 5 h and 17 days) after blast exposure. Subsequently, the efficacy of exogenous hydrocortisone (25 mg/kg -1 or 125 mg/kg -1 ) injected intraperitoneally 1 h after exposure was compared with that of a similarly timed saline injection. Validated cognitive and behavioral tests were used to assess both PTSD and mTBI phenotypes on days 7-14 following the blast. Retrospective analysis revealed that animals demonstrating the PTSD phenotype exhibited a significantly blunted endogenous corticosterone response to the blast compared with all other groups. Moreover, a single 125 mg/kg -1 dose of hydrocortisone administered 1 h after exposure significantly reduced the occurrence of the PTSD phenotype. Hydrocortisone treatment did not have a similar effect on the mTBI phenotype. Results of this study indicate that an inadequate corticosteroid response following blast exposure increases risk for PTSD phenotype, and corticosteroid treatment is a potential clinical intervention for attenuating PTSD. The differences in patterns of physiological and therapeutic response between PTSD and mTBI phenotypes lend credence to the retrospective behavioral and cognitive classification criteria we designed, and is in keeping with the assumption that mTBI and PTSD phenotypes may reflect distinct underlying biological and clinical profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-394
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • HPA axis
  • PTSD
  • animal model
  • blast wave
  • glucocorticoids
  • mTBI
  • secondary prevention


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