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Brain Res. 1999 Apr 10;824(2):197-203.

Reduced synaptophysin immunoreactivity in the dentate gyrus of prepulse inhibition-impaired isolation-reared rats.

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Glaxo Unit of Behavioural Psychopharmacology, Division of Biosciences, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Herts, UK.


Isolation rearing of rat pups from weaning produces neurochemical and behavioural changes that may have relevance to the neurodevelopmental basis of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Although limited, studies have begun to probe for neuroanatomical changes produced by isolation rearing. In the present study, rat pups were reared in isolation, i.e., housed one per cage, from weaning. After 8 weeks of isolation, 'isolates' were compared to their socially reared controls (housed three per cage) in two behavioural paradigms: locomotor activity in a novel open field and prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response. Subsequently, all rats were sacrificed and their brains removed. The hippocampus was sectioned and analysed immunohistochemically using an antibody to the synapse-specific protein synaptophysin, to gain an estimate of the synaptic content of selected hippocampal subfields. Isolates demonstrated locomotor hyperactivity and deficits in PPI relative to socially reared controls. Analysis of synaptophysin immunoreactivity suggested that isolates had significantly reduced synaptic content in the hippocampal dentate gyrus molecular layer, with smaller, non-significant reductions in the CA1 and CA3 regions. This pattern of change may be consistent with reduced neuronal input to the dentate gyrus via the entorhinal cortex, suggesting developmental changes in hippocampal-cortical circuitry. These preliminary studies extend the characterisation of isolation rearing as a model for the investigation of neurodevelopmental diseases such as schizophrenia.

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