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Int J Dev Neurosci. 2009 Feb;27(1):59-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2008.09.200. Epub 2008 Oct 2.

Early postnatal maternal deprivation in rats induces memory deficits in adult life that can be reversed by donepezil and galantamine.

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Centro de Memória, Instituto de Pesquisas Biomédicas, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), Av. Ipiranga, 6690, 90610-000, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.


Early postnatal maternal deprivation is known to cause long-lasting neurobiological effects. Here, we investigated whether some of the cognitive aspects of these deficits might be related to a disruption of the cholinergic system. Pregnant Wistar rats were individually housed and maintained on a 12:12h light/dark cycle with food and water freely available. The mothers were separated from their pups for 3h per day from postnatal day 1 (PND-1) to PND-10. To do that, the dams were moved to a different cage and the pups maintained in the original home cage, which was transferred to a different room kept at 32 degrees C. After they reached 120-150 days of age, maternal-deprived and non-deprived animals were either sacrificed for brain acetylcholinesterase measurement, or trained and tested in an object recognition task and in a social recognition task as described by Rossato et al. (2007) [Rossato, J.I., Bevilaqua, L. R.M., Myskiw, J.C., Medina, J.H., Izquierdo, I., Cammarota, M. 2007. On the role hippocampal synthesis in the consolidation and reconsolidation of object recognition memory. Learn. Mem. 14, 36-46] and Lévy et al. (2003) [Lévy, F., Melo. A.I., Galef. B.G. Jr., Madden, M., Fleming. A.S. 2003. Complete maternal deprivation affects social, but not spatial, learning in adult rats. Dev. Psychobiol. 43, 177-191], respectively. There was increased acetylcholinesterase activity in hippocampus and perirhinal cortex of the deprived animals. In addition, they showed a clear impairment in memory of the two recognition tasks measured 24h after training. Oral administration of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, donepezil or galantamine (1mg/kg) 30min before training reversed the memory impairments caused by maternal deprivation. The findings suggest that maternal deprivation affects memory processing at adulthood through a change in brain cholinergic systems.

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