Early Life Handling Decreases Serotonin Turnover in the Nucleus Accumbens and Affects Feeding Behavior of Adult Rats

PPG Neurociências, Instituto de Ciências Básicas da Saúde, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do, Sul, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Developmental Psychobiology (Impact Factor: 3.31). 03/2010; 52(2):190-6. DOI: 10.1002/dev.20420
Source: PubMed


In our previous studies, we reported that neonatally handled rats have an increased ingestion of sweet food but are resistant to the damaging effects of a chronic exposure to a highly palatable diet. Accumbal serotonin (5-HT) is important for feeding behavior and plays a role in the vulnerability to diet-induced obesity. Therefore, our hypotheses were (1) 5-HT turnover in the nucleus accumbens is altered in neonatally handled animals and plays a role in their differential feeding behavior and (2) if this is so, a chronic pharmacological treatment affecting 5-HT reuptake (chronic imipramine) would be able to revert the behavioral findings. Litters were divided into nonhandled and handled (10 min/day, Days 1-10 after birth). In Experiment 1, we demonstrated that a decreased 5-HT metabolism in the nucleus accumbens was observed in adult handled animals. In Experiment 2, the two previous groups were subdivided and assigned to receive imipramine diluted in water or water alone. After 30 days of treatment, we evaluated their weight gain and feeding behavior. Handled rats weighed less than nonhandled rats, and all imipramine-treated rats showed a reduction in weight gain after 60 days of treatment. Imipramine reverted the increased sweet food consumption seen in neonatally handled rats. We conclude that serotonin is involved in the altered feeding behavior of neonatally handled rats, and this protocol is an important tool for studying the mechanisms by which early life events have a long-term impact on feeding preferences.

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    ABSTRACT: Neonatal handling induces several behavioral and neurochemical alterations in pups, including decreased responses to stress and reduced fear in new environments. However, there are few reports in the literature concerning the behavioral effects of this neonatal intervention on the dams during the postpartum period. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to determine if brief postpartum separation from pups has a persistent impact on the dam's stress response and behavior. Litters were divided into two neonatal groups: 1) non-handled and 2) handled [10 min/day, from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 10]. Weaning occurred at PND 21 when behavioral tasks started to be applied to the dams, including sweet food ingestion (PND 21), forced swimming test (PND 28), and locomotor response to a psychostimulant (PND 28). On postpartum day 40, plasma was collected at baseline for leptin assays and after 1 h of restraint for corticosterone assay. Regarding sweet food consumption, behavior during the forced swimming test or plasma leptin levels did not differ between dams briefly separated and non-separated from their pups during the postpartum period. On the other hand, both increased locomotion in response to diethylpropion and increased corticosterone secretion in response to acute stress were detected in dams briefly separated from their pups during the first 10 postnatal days. Taken together, these findings suggest that brief, repeated separations from the pups during the neonatal period persistently impact the behavior and induce signs of dopaminergic sensitization in the dam.
    Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas / Sociedade Brasileira de Biofisica ... [et al.]