Prenatal Stress Alters Single-trial Conditioned Place Preference in Adolescent Rats




Karsner, Stephanie

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Early environmental and behavioral experiences can affect development during adolescence and even adulthood. Prenatal effects can result in lasting changes on the nervous system and behavior. Gestational stress has been shown to lead to an increased vulnerability to substance abuse and addiction disorders. Exposure to stress is associated with sensitive periods of vulnerability that also uniquely contributes to drug abuse vulnerability. Compulsive drug use can increase due to a highly reactive HPA-axis, which can be dysregulated by prenatal stress exposure (Andersen & Teicher, 2009). While the results of studies done with other drugs of abuse suggest that animals exposed to prenatal stress are more vulnerable to substance abuse, the effects of prenatal stress on nicotine exposure is unknown, particularly on initial nicotine experiences during adolescence. Indeed, research on the effects of prenatal stress on adolescent behavior and development is scarce. As adolescence is the most common age for initial nicotine use, and as adolescence is a sensitive period where reinforcing effects of nicotine are stronger than in adults, we carried out an experiment to determine the effects of prenatal stress on adolescent nicotine reward using a rat model. The conditioned place preference (CPP) paradigm, widely used to assess the rewarding effects of abused drugs in rodents [Bardo & Bevins, 2000], is ideal for modeling initial responsivity to nicotine. In this experiment, pregnant female rats underwent either restraint stress [45 min 3X daily, P14-P21], or no stress. Adolescent male offspring underwent a four-day, single-trial nicotine CPP procedure in a conditioning apparatus consisting of 2 distinct sides. The results show that prenatal stress altered the posttest time of nicotine place preference in adolescence. This suggests the prenatal stress may actually be acting on anxiety and that could be altering the conditioned place preference results.



Prenatal Stress, Nicotine, Conditioned Place Preference, Restraint Stress