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Physiol Behav. 2001 Oct;74(3):371-9.

Effects of neonatal corticosterone treatment on maze performance and HPA axis in juvenile rats.

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Neuroscience Program and Department of Psychology, Bates College, Lewiston, ME 04240, USA.


Previous research has indicated that administering corticosterone to dams' drinking water for 21 days produced persistent alterations in physiology and behavior. We investigated whether 4 days of corticosterone exposure would have similar effects, and whether greater effects would be found when corticosterone was administered early in neonatal life than later in neonatal life. Sprague-Dawley dams were given either corticosterone (250 microg/ml) in their water bottles for postnatal days (PND) 5-9 (early corticosterone treatment: ECT), PND 13-17 (late corticosterone treatment: LCT) or no treatment (NT). At the end of treatment, corticosterone levels were higher in pups of corticosterone drinking dams. However, at weaning, ECT and LCT pups had lower basal corticosterone levels than NT pups. As juveniles, ECT pups learned to navigate to a visible and then to a nonvisible platform in a Morris water maze more quickly than did LCT and NT pups. Among females, ECT pups had higher corticosterone release in response to stress than LCT and NT pups. There were no differences in hippocampal corticosteroid receptor levels among the groups. The pattern of results is similar to, but not identical to, that found for pups exposed to corticosterone for 21 days. The results also suggest that there is a critical or sensitive period for corticosterone treatment in that early treatment was more effective than later treatment.

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