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Cell Rep. 2018 Nov 27;25(9):2299-2307.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.11.010.

Early Life Stress Drives Sex-Selective Impairment in Reversal Learning by Affecting Parvalbumin Interneurons in Orbitofrontal Cortex of Mice.

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Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.
Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.
Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA. Electronic address:


Poverty, displacement, and parental stress represent potent sources of early life stress (ELS). Stress disproportionately affects females, who are at increased risk for stress-related pathologies associated with cognitive impairment. Mechanisms underlying stress-associated cognitive impairment and enhanced risk of females remain unknown. Here, ELS is associated with impaired rule-reversal (RR) learning in females, but not males. Impaired performance was associated with decreased expression and density of interneurons expressing parvalbumin (PV+) in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), but not other interneuron subtypes. Optogenetic silencing of PV+ interneuron activity in OFC of control mice phenocopied RR learning deficits observed in ELS females. Localization of reversal learning deficits to PV+ interneurons in OFC was confirmed by optogenetic studies in which neurons in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) were silenced and associated with select deficits in rule-shift learning. Sex-, cell-, and region-specific effects show altered PV+ interneuron development can be a driver of sex differences in cognitive dysfunction.


attention; behavior; development; early life stress; maternal bedding restriction; mouse; orbitofrontal cortex; parvalbumin; rule-reversal learning; sex differences

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