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Behav Brain Res. 2005 Jan 30;156(2):251-61.

Prenatal exposure to a repeated variable stress paradigm elicits behavioral and neuroendocrinological changes in the adult offspring: potential relevance to schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychiatry, Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, P.O. Box 21247, Baltimore, MD 21228, USA.


Exposure to stress during gestation induces marked changes in the behavior of the affected offspring. Examining the consequences of prenatal stress may prove useful in understanding more about the origins of schizophrenia because a number of clinical investigations have suggested that developmental insults are associated with an increased incidence of schizophrenia. The purpose of these studies is to investigate the effects of stress during gestation on the behaviors of the adult male rat offspring with an emphasis on developing a heuristic animal model of schizophrenia. Pregnant female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to a novel variable stress paradigm during either the second or third week of gestation. Behavioral and neuroendocrinological consequences of prenatal stress exposure were evaluated in the male offspring on postnatal day 35 or 56. Prenatal stress exposure during the third week of pregnancy caused adult male rats to exhibit prolonged elevation in plasma glucocorticoid levels following acute exposure to restraint stress indicative of diminished glucocorticoid negative feedback. Similarly, exposure to stress during the third week of pregnancy elicited an enhanced locomotor response to the psychomotor stimulant amphetamine on postnatal day 56 but not on postnatal day 35. In addition, prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response was diminished across a range of prepulse stimulus intensities in prenatally stressed adult male rats. Similarly, prenatally stressed rats showed evidence of a disruption in auditory sensory gating as measured by the N40 response. Taken together, these findings suggest that prenatal stress exposure significantly changed many facets of adult rat behavior. Interestingly, the behaviors that are altered have been used to validate animal models of schizophrenia and therefore, suggest that this preparation may be useful to learn more about some aspects of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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