Effects of minor laboratory procedures, adrenalectomy, social defeat or acute alcohol on regional brain concentrations of corticosterone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Adam P. Croft
  • Matthew J. O'Callaghan
  • S. G. Shaw
  • Gerald Connolly
  • Catherine Jacquot
  • And 1 others
  • Hilary J. Little

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Institute of Medical Sciences
  • University of Bern
  • St George's University of London


Concentrations of corticosterone in brain areas of TO strain mice were measured by radioimmunoassay. The studies examined the effects of routine laboratory maneuvers, variation during the circadian peak, adrenalectomy, social defeat and acute injections of alcohol on these concentrations. Brief handling of mice increased corticosterone levels in plasma but not in striatum and reduced those in the hippocampus. Single injections of isotonic saline raised the plasma concentrations to a similar extent as the handling, but markedly elevated concentrations in the three brain regions. Five minutes exposure to a novel environment increased hippocampal and cerebral cortical corticosterone levels and striatal concentrations showed a larger rise. However, by 30 min in the novel environment, plasma concentrations rose further while those in striatum and cerebral cortex fell to control levels and hippocampal corticosterone remained elevated. Over the period of the circadian peak the hippocampal and striatal concentrations paralleled the plasma concentrations but cerebral cortical concentrations showed only small changes. Adrenalectomy reduced plasma corticosterone concentrations to below detectable levels after 48 h but corticosterone levels were only partially reduced in the hippocampus and striatum and remained unchanged in the cerebral cortex. Single or repeated social defeat increased both brain and plasma concentrations after 1 h. Acute injections of alcohol raised the regional brain levels in parallel with plasma concentrations. The results show that measurements of plasma concentrations do not necessarily reflect the levels in brain. The data also demonstrate that corticosterone levels can change differentially in specific brain regions. These results, and the residual hormone seen in the brain after adrenalectomy, are suggestive evidence for a local origin of central corticosterone.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2008


  • Brain, Corticosterone, Hippocampus, Prefrontal cortex, Stress