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Behav Brain Res. 2005 Jul 1;162(1):153-60.

Effects of prenatal maternal stress by repeated cold environment on behavioral and emotional development in the rat offspring.

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System Emotional Science, Graduate School of Medicine, Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Toyama 930-0194, Japan.


It has been reported that many types of stresses, which caused physiological and psychological alterations in dams as prenatal maternal stress, affected behavioral and emotional traits of their offspring. However, effects of environmental temperature changes, which induce various stress responses in both animals and humans, have not been assessed as prenatal maternal stress. Repeated cold stress (RCS) is a type of chronic cold stress in which environmental temperature changes rapidly and frequently several times within a day. In the present study, to investigate effects of chronic maternal stress by the RCS on behavioral and emotional development of the rat offspring (prenatal RCS rats), the RCS stress was loaded to pregnant rats between day 9 and 19 after fertilization. The prenatal RCS rats showed similar locomotor activity in an open field to control rats that were borne by non-stressed pregnant rats. On the other hand, the prenatal RCS rats showed significantly higher startle responses than the control rats in a light enhanced startle paradigm. However, treatment of diazepam decreased the startle responses in the prenatal RCS rats to the same degree as those in the control rats. The results indicated that prenatal RCS affected emotional development of the rat offspring, but not locomotor activity. Comparison of the present results with the previous studies suggests that there might be unknown common mechanisms among different prenatal maternal stresses that induce similar behavioral developmental alteration.

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