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PLoS One. 2016 Dec 8;11(12):e0167652. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167652. eCollection 2016.

A Time to Wean? Impact of Weaning Age on Anxiety-Like Behaviour and Stability of Behavioural Traits in Full Adulthood.

Author information

1
Department of Behavioural Biology, University of Münster, Münster, Germany.

Abstract

In mammals, weaning constitutes an important phase in the progression to adulthood. It comprises the termination of suckling and is characterized by several changes in the behaviour of both mother and offspring. Furthermore, numerous studies in rodents have shown that the time point of weaning shapes the behavioural profile of the young. Most of these studies, however, have focused on 'early weaning', while relatively little work has been done to study 'late weaning' effects. The aim of the present study was therefore to explore behavioural effects of 'late weaning', and furthermore to gain insights into modulating effects of weaning age on the consistency of behavioural expressions over time. In total, 25 male and 20 female C57BL/6J mice, weaned after three (W3) or four (W4) weeks of age, were subjected to a series of behavioural paradigms widely used to assess anxiety-like behaviour, exploratory locomotion, and nest building performance. Behavioural testing took place with the mice reaching an age of 20 weeks and was repeated eight weeks later to investigate the stability of behavioural expressions over time. At the group level, W4 mice behaved less anxious and more explorative than W3 animals in the Open Field and Novel Cage, while anxiety-like behaviour on the Elevated Plus Maze was modulated by a weaning-age-by-sex interaction. Furthermore, weaning age shaped the degree of behavioural stability over time in a sex-specific way. While W3 females and W4 males displayed a remarkable degree of behavioural stability over time, no such patterns were observed in W3 males and W4 females. Adding to the existing literature, we could thus confirm that effects of weaning age do indeed exist when prolonging this phase, and were furthermore able to provide first evidence for the impact of weaning age and sex on the consistency of behavioural expressions over time.

PMID:
27930688
PMCID:
PMC5145172
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0167652
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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