Maternal stress during pregnancy causes sex-specific alterations in offspring memory performance, social interactions, indices of anxiety

Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.
Physiology & Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.98). 02/2011; 104(2):340-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.02.021
Source: PubMed


Prenatal stress (PS) impairs memory function; however, it is not clear whether PS-induced memory deficits are specific to spatial memory, or whether memory is more generally compromised by PS. Here we sought to distinguish between these possibilities by assessing spatial, recognition and contextual memory functions in PS and nonstressed (NS) rodents. We also measured anxiety-related and social behaviors to determine whether our unpredictable PS paradigm generates a behavioral phenotype comparable to previous studies. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to daily random stress during the last gestational week and behavior tested in adulthood. In males but not females, PS decreased memory for novel objects and novel spatial locations, and facilitated memory for novel object/context pairings. In the elevated zero maze, PS increased anxiety-related behavior only in females. Social behaviors also varied with sex and PS condition. Females showed more anogenital sniffing regardless of stress condition. In contrast, prenatal stress eliminated a male-biased sex difference in nonspecific bodily sniffing by decreasing sniffing in males, and increasing sniffing in females. Finally, PS males but not females gained significantly more weight across adulthood than did NS controls. In summary, these data indicate that PS differentially impacts males and females resulting in sex-specific adult behavioral and bodily phenotypes.

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Available from: Kalynn M Schulz
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    • "The consequences following prenatal stress exposure often di®er according to the stressor and its timing. For instance, if the stress is applied in the second half of pregnancy, impaired memory function (Markham et al., 2010; Modir et al., 2014), sexual and social abnormalities (Meisel et al., 1979; Schulz et al., 2011) may occur. Furthermore, early adverse life events are known to alter anxiety-like behavior in o®spring. "
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    ABSTRACT: We assess the anxiety-like behavior in the open field and elevated plus maze tests and measure the nociceptive response in the tail flick test following prenatal stress exposure in adult male and female Wistar rats. In both behavioral anxiety tests, prenatal stress increased the anxiety-like behavior in male PS rats, but not in females suggesting a strong sex-dependent anxiogenic effect. The tail flick results showed a hypersensitivity to pain in male and female PS rats with a subtle gender difference. These findings suggest that prenatal stress is an important risk factor for multiple mental disorders.
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    • "10 , Mychasiuk , Gibb , & Kolb , 2011 ; Weinstock , 2007 , 2011 ; Zohar & Wein - stock , 2011 ) . 1 For example , in a number of studies , pregnant rats were exposed to daily random stress during the last gesta - tional week , and behavior was tested in the adult offspring . Female , but not male , offspring showed anxiety - related be - haviors ( Schulz et al . , 2011 * ) ; reduced exploration of the open arms of an experimental maze , a marker for increased anxiety ( Zagron & Weinstock , 2006 ) ; and increased length of immobility in the forced swim test , a model of depression ( Frye & Wawrzycki , 2003 ) . Adrenalectomy of the rat mothers eliminated the effect of prenatal stress in female offspring"
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    • "Maternal stress is associated with increased offspring anxiety and depressive-related behaviors in humans [1] and animals [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]. "
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