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Background: Acute stress may elicit many physiological, behavioral, and neuropathological responses, and studies aim to better our understanding of these responses and their effects on human behavior. However, a majority of preclinical studies that involve Long Evans rats are currently using male test subjects. This study thus aims to evaluate the physiological response of interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) to various acute stressors in adult and adolescent female Long Evans rats. Methods: Female Long Evans rats were exposed to three acute stressors over the course of three consecutive days. In order, these stressors were Swim Stress (SS), Open Field with High Light (OF-HL), and Predator Odor (PO). Plasma samples were collected both prior to and following each stressor, and IL-1β levels were measured using a 96-well ELISA. For the two weeks that followed, EtOH self administration was assessed in an intermittent access two-bottle choice design, followed by a final measure of IL-1β levels. Results: No significant difference was found between the pre-stress and post-stress levels of IL-1β for any of the acute stressors. However, the general trend of our data suggests that IL-1β levels decreased following the stressor for both adult and adolescent subjects. IL-1β levels were also lower at final measure than compared to pre-stress baseline, suggesting that ethanol consumption may impact basal levels of IL-1β. Conclusion: The goal of this pilot study was to assess the physiological reactivity of female rats to various acute stressors with the hope of finding behaviorally meaningful stressors that allow us to further study the neurobiological substrates of anxiety-like behavior, stress, and ethanol consumption. Though these data are preliminary and would require further replication, they do suggest that acute stress and alcohol consumption may decrease IL-1β levels. Future studies will assess how IL-1β is affected by chronic stress in female subjects.

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Honors Thesis

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Tracy Butler

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Effects of Acute Stress and Ethanol Consumption on IL-1β in Female Long Evans Rats: A Pilot Study