Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nesha Burghardt


Glenn Schafe

Committee Members

Ekaterina Likhtik

Scott Russo

Subject Categories

Behavioral Neurobiology | Biological Psychology


Social Defeat, Curcumin, Resilience


Chronic exposure to stress is a risk factor for the development of major depression and post traumatic stress disorder in humans and induces depressive- and anxiety-like phenotypes in rodents. However, there are few pharmacological interventions available that effectively treat maladaptive responses to chronic stress in the clinical setting. One therapeutic agent that has recently shown promise in treating psychiatric disorders is curcumin, a yellow-pigmented polyphenol compound found in the turmeric plant. Curcumin has been shown to prevent the development of stressed-induced depressive-like behavior in rodents and reduce symptoms of depression in clinically diagnosed patients. In this dissertation, I investigated whether dietary curcumin prevents social avoidance and anxiety-like behavior following chronic psychosocial stress in chapter 1. In studies described in Chapter 2, I placed 129/SvEv male mice on a diet of 1.5% curcumin or a control chow 5 days prior to 10 days of chronic social defeat stress and then tested them in the social interaction test, open field, and elevated plus maze. I found that curcumin effectively blocks stress-induced increases in social avoidance and anxiety-like behavior. In Chapter 3, I investigated the underlying mechanisms and found that there is a correlation between the effects of dietary curcumin on social avoidance and suppression of stress-induced increases in peripheral markers of inflammation. Interestingly, I identified two distinct responses to treatment based on social avoidance behavior (responders and non-responders). Additional experiments described in Chapter 4 reveal that social behavior prior to social defeat stress predicts treatment response. Together, these findings suggest that curcumin may be exerting its therapeutic effect by modulating levels of inflammation in the periphery and that social behavior at baseline may be a useful tool for predicting treatment outcome in preclinical research.