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Physiol Behav. 1988;42(4):323-9.

Stressor controllability during pregnancy influences pituitary-adrenal hormone concentrations and analgesic responsiveness in offspring.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison 53792.


Repeated escapable shock, yoked-inescapable shock, or no-shock treatments were administered to female rats before parturition to investigate the effects of stressor controllability on offspring pituitary-adrenal hormone concentrations and stress-induced analgesic reactions. Female rats exposed to escapable shock treatments received tail-shock in boxes containing a wheel that allowed shocks to be terminated after rotation. Rats in the yoked-inescapable shock group received an identical amount and pattern of tail-shock. However, shock was terminated only after wheel rotation by the rat undergoing escapable shock treatments. Female rats in the no-shock group were simply placed in wheel-turn boxes. Fourteen-day-old offspring were exposed for 10-min to either a separation-stress or shock-induced stress test. The former test consisted of separating and isolating the pup from the mother and siblings, whereas the latter involved the administration of five brief, 1.0 sec, low intensity, 0.5 mA, foot-shocks. Immediately after exposure to foot-shocks, pups were given a tail-flick test to assess their analgesic response. Plasma was obtained from pups immediately after separation and tail-flick tests and ACTH and corticosterone concentrations were assayed by radioimmunoassay. Results indicated that prenatal inescapable shock treatments resulted in offspring with significantly higher plasma ACTH and corticosterone concentrations than offspring exposed to prenatal escapable shock or no-shock treatments. Offspring of females exposed to inescapable shock also exhibited greater increases from basal concentrations in ACTH and corticosterone after stress. Furthermore, prenatal escapable and inescapable shock treatments significantly altered shock-induced analgesic thresholds.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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