Neonatal tactile stimulation reverses the effect of neonatal isolation on open-field and anxiety-like behavior, and pain sensitivity in male and female adult Sprague–Dawley rats
It is well known that early life events induce long-lasting psychophysiological and psychobiological influences in later life. In rodent studies, environmental enrichment after weaning prevents the adulthood behavioral and emotional disturbances in response to early adversities. We compared the behavioral effect of neonatal isolation (NI) with the effect of NI accompanied by tactile stimulation (NTS) to determine whether NTS could reverse or prevent the effects of NI on the adulthood behavioral and emotional responses to environmental stimuli. In addition, we also examined the sex difference of the NTS effect. Measurements of body weights, an open-field locomotor test, an elevated plus maze test, a hot-plate test, and a contextual fear-conditioning test were performed on postnatal day 60. As compared with rats subjected to NI, rats subjected to NTS showed significantly higher activity and exploration in the open-field locomotor test, lower anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze test, and significantly prolonged latencies in the hot-plate test, and this effect was equal among males and females. In the contextual fear-conditioning test, whereas NTS significantly reduced the enhanced freezing time due to NI in females, no significant difference in the freezing time between NI and NTS was found in males. These findings indicate that adequate tactile stimulation in early life plays an important role in the prevention of disturbances in the behavioral and emotional responses to environmental stimuli in adulthood induced by early adverse experiences.
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