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J Neuroendocrinol. 2000 Aug;12(8):723-8.

Early environmental regulation of glucocorticoid feedback sensitivity in young adult monkeys.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305-5485, USA.


Variations in maternal care induce in neonatal rodents life-long changes in glucocorticoid feedback regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This aspect of plasticity in neuroendocrine development has not been established in primates. We assessed, in young adult squirrel monkeys, postnatal rearing effects on cortisol-induced suppression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) stimulated secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Offspring of randomly bred monkeys were periodically removed from natal groups between 13 and 21 weeks of age. In two other postnatal rearing conditions, systematic differences in maternal availability were produced by manipulating the effort required of lactating mothers to successfully find food. All offspring were subsequently administered, 3-5 years later on two occasions, an intravenous ovine CRF injection preceded 60 min earlier by placebo or cortisol pretreatment. The difference between CRF-stimulated time-integrated secretion of ACTH following placebo vs cortisol pretreatment served as an index of glucocorticoid negative feedback. Difference scores were greatest in monkeys previously separated from natal groups. This finding was not attributable to significant rearing condition differences in plasma cortisol levels achieved following pretreatment with exogenous cortisol, nor plasma ACTH levels produced when the CRF injection was preceded by pretreatment with placebo. The results suggest that postnatal experiences altered glucocorticoid feedback in monkeys at least through early adulthood. This conclusion supports retrospective reports indicating that, for humans with major mood and anxiety disorders, systematic differences in glucocorticoid feedback may reflect neural mechanisms in development linking early life stress with psychopathology in adulthood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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