What Role Does Social Rank play with Stress and Addition?
There are many issues that could elicit stress and drive individuals to addiction. A potentially overlooked cause may be the burden of social rank. The following brief article chronicles a study conducted on laboratory animals that indicates certain metabolic factors may trigger adverse responses to stressors in those holding socially-dominant positions.
The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, a scientific and research institute in Switzerland, recently conducted and concluded a project in which scientists examined the habits of lab mice. Their findings suggested those mice who were considered to be dominant in a group of their peers and exposed to stressful situations displayed a tendency to be withdrawn and passive, while mice thought to be socially-subordinate exuded greater levels of aggressiveness and resiliency when put under trying circumstances.
Researchers probed deeper into this study by examining two sections of the mice's brains: the nucleus accumbens, which is the area responsible for the animal's ability to process the concepts of motivation and reward; as well as the medial prefrontal cortex, which mice utilize to process the concept of planning. In addition, these same scientists studied the metabolite levels in these particular parts of the mice's brains.
The project further concluded that the metabolic makeup of the nucleus accumbens correlates to social standing and a mouse's ability to handle stress. Before exposure to difficult situations were factored in, subordinate mice tested lower in terms of metabolite levels. However, once the subordinates were forced to react to tenser circumstances, their metabolite levels increased, while those of their socially-superior peers did not.
This study is amongst the first-ever conducted with designs on drawing a metabolic correlation between social status and how it is impacted by stress. Researchers are confident these findings could provide a solid framework for examining whether a similar phenomenon might develop in the human population.
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