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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2001 Sep;25(3):423-39.

Caesarean section birth produces long term changes in dopamine D1 receptors and in stress-induced regulation of D3 and D4 receptors in the rat brain.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Douglas Hospital Research Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Schizophrenia is associated with increased birth complications and altered mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic (DA) transmission, whereas stress also influences psychotic symptoms. Given this, the present study tested effects of two birth complications, Caesarean section (C-section) birth with or without acute global anoxia, on brain DA receptors in rats at adulthood. Effects of repeated stress at adulthood were also tested. Before stress, C-sectioned rats showed increased D1-like receptor binding in limbic areas, compared to vaginally born controls. There were no differences between birth groups in D2-like, D3, or D4-like receptor binding before stress. After stress, C-sectioned animals showed decreased D3 receptors in accumbens and increased D4-like receptors in dorsal striatum, accumbens, and olfactory tubercles, compared to vaginal birth. This occurred because stress upregulated D3 receptors only with vaginal birth and upregulated D4-like receptors only with C-section. Animals born by C-section + anoxia showed no change in DA receptors relative to vaginal birth, before or after stress. It is concluded that interactions between an individual's experience of stress at adulthood, together with other environmental events in their history, such as birth complications, can be important determinants of brain DA receptor levels.

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