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Comparison of maternal separation and early handling in terms of their neurobehavioral effects in aged rats

Comparison of maternal separation and early handling in terms of their neurobehavioral effects in aged rats

Neurobiology of Aging 23(3): 457-466

ISSN/ISBN: 0197-4580

PMID: 11959408

DOI: 10.1016/s0197-4580(01)00320-7

In the rat, relative to pup nonhandling (NH), early handling (EH) leads to old-adult offspring with a hyporesponsive HPA axis, superior spatial cognition, and greater hippocampal (HIPP) neuronal density. The present study compared the effects of EH and repeated maternal separation (MS), in the form of 6-hr separation on each of 4 days beginning at day 12, on spatial cognition, corticosterone (CORT) levels, and HIPP characteristics, in aged rats. Male Wistar rat pups were exposed to EH, MS, NH or our normal in-house husbandry (CON) and tested at 18-20 months. Relative to NH and CON, EH demonstrated superior spatial cognition, reduced CORT stress response, reduced CA-field volume and no change in HIPP neuronal number. MS demonstrated a trend to superior spatial cognition, an unaffected CORT stress response, reduced CA-field volume and no change in HIPP neuronal number. These findings are important in terms of the life-span mechanisms via which postnatal manipulations induce neurobehavioral effects, and the mechanisms via which CORT and HIPP structure relate to HIPP function.

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Accession: 010359732

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