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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Sep 30;223(1):7-16. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.04.015. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Maternal separation altered behavior and neuronal spine density without influencing amphetamine sensitization.

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University of Lethbridge AB, Canada.


We studied the long-term influence of maternal separation (MS) on periadolescent behavior, adult amphetamine (AMPH) sensitization, and structural plasticity in the corticolimbic regions in rats. Male and female pups, separated daily for 3h from the dam during postnatal day 3-21, were tested for periadolescent exploratory, emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors. The development and persistence of drug-induced behavioral sensitization were tested by repeated AMPH administration and a challenge, respectively. The spine density was examined in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and the orbital frontal cortex (OFC) from Golgi-Cox stained neurons. The results showed that MS enhanced anxiety-like behavior in males. MS abolished the sex difference in playful attacks observed in controls with resultant feminization of male play behavior. Furthermore, the probability of complete rotation defense to face an attack was decreased in females. AMPH administration resulted in the development of behavioral sensitization that persisted at least for two weeks. Sensitization was not influenced by MS. MS increased the spine density in the NAc, the mPFC, and the OFC. Repeated AMPH administration increased the spine density in the NAc and the mPFC, and decreased it in the OFC. MS blocked the drug-induced alteration in these regions. In sum, MS during development influenced periadolescent behavior in males, and structurally reorganized cortical and subcortical brain regions without affecting AMPH-induced behavioral sensitization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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