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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Mar;292(3):R1212-23. Epub 2006 Nov 2.

Progressive postnatal increases in Fos immunoreactivity in the forebrain and brain stem of rats after viscerosensory stimulation with lithium chloride.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Interoceptive signals have a powerful impact on the motivation and emotional learning of animals during stressful experiences. However, current insights into the organization of interoceptive pathways stem mainly from observation and manipulation of adults, and little is known regarding the functional development of viscerosensory signaling pathways. To address this, we have examined central neural activation patterns in rat pups after treatment with lithium chloride (LiCl), a malaise-inducing agent. Rat pups were injected intraperitoneally with 0.15 M LiCl or 0.15 M NaCl (2% body wt) on postnatal day (P)0, 7, 14, 21, or 28, perfused 60 to 90 min postinjection, and their brains assayed for Fos protein immunolabeling. Compared with saline treatment, LiCl increased Fos only slightly in the area postrema, nucleus of the solitary tract, and lateral parabrachial nucleus on P0. LiCl did not increase Fos above control levels in the central nucleus of the amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), or paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus on P0 but did on P7 and later. Maximal Fos responses to LiCl were observed on P14 in all areas except the BNST, in which LiCl-induced Fos activation continued to increase through P28. These results indicate that central LiCl-sensitive interoceptive circuits in rats are not fully functional at birth, and show age-dependent increases in neural Fos responses to viscerosensory stimulation with LiCl.

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