Individual Variations in Maternal Care Early in Life Correlate with Later Life Decision-Making and c-Fos Expression in Prefrontal Subregions of Rats

Felisa N. van Hasselt, Leonie de Visser, Jacintha M. Tieskens, Sandra Cornelisse, Annemarie M. Baars, Marla Lavrijsen, Harm J. Krugers, Ruud van den Bos, Marian Joels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Early life adversity affects hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, alters cognitive functioning and in humans is thought to increase the vulnerability to psychopathology-e. g. depression, anxiety and schizophrenia-later in life. Here we investigated whether subtle natural variations among individual rat pups in the amount of maternal care received, i.e. differences in the amount of licking and grooming (LG), correlate with anxiety and prefrontal cortex-dependent behavior in young adulthood. Therefore, we examined the correlation between LG received during the first postnatal week and later behavior in the elevated plus maze and in decision-making processes using a rodent version of the Iowa Gambling Task (rIGT). In our cohort of male and female animals a high degree of LG correlated with less anxiety in the elevated plus maze and more advantageous choices during the last 10 trials of the rIGT. In tissue collected 2 hrs after completion of the task, the correlation between LG and c-fos expression (a marker of neuronal activity) was established in structures important for IGT performance. Negative correlations existed between rIGT performance and c-fos expression in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, prelimbic cortex, infralimbic cortex and insular cortex. The insular cortex correlations between c-fos expression and decision-making performance depended on LG background; this was also true for the lateral orbitofrontal cortex in female rats. Dendritic complexity of insular or infralimbic pyramidal neurons did not or weakly correlate with LG background. We conclude that natural variations in maternal care received by pups may significantly contribute to later-life decision-making and activity of underlying brain structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37820
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume7
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31-May-2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • IOWA GAMBLING TASK
  • PITUITARY-ADRENAL RESPONSES
  • AGRANULAR INSULAR CORTEX
  • EARLY PARENTAL LOSS
  • ORBITOFRONTAL CORTEX
  • DENDRITIC MORPHOLOGY
  • NUCLEUS-ACCUMBENS
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES
  • BASOLATERAL AMYGDALA
  • UNIPOLAR DEPRESSION

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