Neuroendocrinology of coping styles: Towards understanding the biology of individual variation

J.M. Koolhaas, Sietse de Boer, C.M. Coppens, B. Buwalda

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Individual variation in behavior and physiology is a widespread and ecologically functional phenomenon in nature in virtually all vertebrate species. Due to domestication of laboratory animals, studies may suffer from a strong selection bias. This paper summarizes behavioral, neuroendocrine and neurobiological studies using the natural individual variation in rats and mice. Individual behavioral characteristics appear to be consistent over time and across situations. The individual variation has at least two dimensions in which the quality of the response to a challenging condition (coping style) is independent from the quantity of that response (stress reactivity). The neurobiology reveals important differences in the homeostatic control of the serotonergic neuron and the neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin in relation to coping style. It is argued that a careful exploitation of the broad natural and biologically functional individual variation in behavior and physiology may help in developing better animal models for understanding individual disease vulnerability. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-321
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2010


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Neurosecretory Systems
  • Rats

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