Stress before puberty exerts a sex- and age-related impact on auditory and contextual fear conditioning in the rat

Adolescence is a period of major physical, hormonal, and psychological changes. It is also characterized by a significant increase in the incidence of psychopathologies and this increase is gender-specific. Stress during adolescence is associated with the development of psychiatric disorders later in life. In this study, we evaluated the impact of psychogenic stress (exposure to predator odor followed by placement on an elevated platform) experienced before puberty (days 28-30) on fear memories and hormonal response of male and female rats during adolescence and early adulthood. Stress before puberty impacted in a sex- and age-specific way on the responses to auditory and contextual fear conditioning in adolescence and adulthood: (a) increased conditioned fear to the tone in males during adolescence but not during adulthood; (b) impaired extinction to the tone in adult males; and (c) reduced freezing responses to the context in adolescent females. Stress before puberty did not influence the corticosterone levels 30 minutes after an additional stressor given in adulthood. These results indicate that stress experienced prior to puberty can exert a sex-related differential impact on fear-related behaviors displayed by individuals during late adolescence and early adulthood

Published in:
Neural Plasticity, 2007, 71203
Author address: Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.

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 Record created 2008-07-24, last modified 2019-03-16

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