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Biochem Pharmacol. 2007 Feb 1;73(3):321-30. Epub 2006 Sep 8.

Maternal separation alters drug intake patterns in adulthood in rats.

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Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


Maternal separation/handling (MS/H) is an animal model of early life stress that causes profound neurochemical and behavioral alterations in pups that persist into adulthood. Many recent studies have used the MS/H model to study changes in drug effects in adulthood that are linked to behavioral treatments and stressors in the perinatal period. The drug effects focused on in this review are the reinforcing properties of the abused drugs, cocaine and alcohol. A striking finding is that variations in maternal separation and handling cause changes in ethanol and cocaine self-administration. Further, these changes indicate that various manipulations in the perinatal period can have long lasting effects of interest to biochemical pharmacologists. This article will review recent studies on ethanol and cocaine self-administration using the MS/H model and the neurochemical alterations that may play a role in the effects of MS/H on ethanol and cocaine self-administration. Studying the MS/H model can provide important clues into the vulnerability to drug abuse and perhaps identify a crucial window of opportunity for therapeutic intervention.

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