Sex differences in stress-induced hyperthermia in rats: Restraint versus confinement

Robert F. McGivern, Damian G. Zuloaga, Robert J. Handa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Studies using restraint to induce psychological stress consistently report the expected hyperthermic response in core body temperature (CBT), but many also report a hypothermic response that precedes the hyperthermia. To understand the conditions that produce hypothermia, and to study sex differences in stress-induced hyperthermia, we measured CBT in male and female rats at 70 and 180 days of age in response to two types of stressors: immobilization through restraint (Plexiglas restrainer) and confinement in a small area (circular wire mesh cylinders that allowed free airflow). Restraint early in the light period induced hypothermia only in 180-day-old males, with no hyperthermia observed during the 30-minute restraint period. Increases in humidity and temperature of the microenvironment due to the larger body weight at this age may contribute to the hypothermia. Hyperthermia during restraint in 70-day-old males was significantly attenuated and delayed in onset compared to the rise in females. All females exhibited a CBT rise of approximately 1.3 °C occurring 10-15 min after the onset of restraint. Restraint early in the dark period induced no significant change in CBT in males of either age during immobilization, while females exhibited a small rise of approximately 0.5 °C. Confinement early in the light period induced a significant rise of approximately 1.5 °C in all groups, with no preceding hypothermia. However, the male response was significantly delayed compared to females. Overall, these results indicate that CBT changes during restraint likely involve both anxiogenic and physiological components, while the marked hyperthermia during confinement is primarily psychological in both sexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-420
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 19 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Core body temperature
  • Restraint
  • Sex differences
  • Stress
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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