Early Life Stress Differentially Modulates Distinct Forms of Brain Plasticity in Young and Adult Mice


BACKGROUND Early life trauma is an important risk factor for many psychiatric and somatic disorders in adulthood. As a growing body of evidence suggests that brain plasticity is disturbed in affective disorders, we examined the short-term and remote effects of early life stress on different forms of brain plasticity. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Mice were subjected to early deprivation by individually separating pups from their dam in the first two weeks after birth. Distinct forms of brain plasticity were assessed in the hippocampus by longitudinal MR volumetry, immunohistochemistry of neurogenesis, and whole-cell patch-clamp measurements of synaptic plasticity. Depression-related behavior was assessed by the forced swimming test in adult animals. Neuropeptides and their receptors were determined by real-time PCR and immunoassay. Early maternal deprivation caused a loss of hippocampal volume, which returned to normal in adulthood. Adult neurogenesis was unaffected by early life stress. Long-term synaptic potentiation, however, was normal immediately after the end of the stress protocol but was impaired in adult animals. In the forced swimming test, adult animals that had been subjected to early life stress showed increased immobility time. Levels of substance P were increased both in young and adult animals after early deprivation. CONCLUSION Hippocampal volume was affected by early life stress but recovered in adulthood which corresponded to normal adult neurogenesis. Synaptic plasticity, however, exhibited a delayed impairment. The modulation of synaptic plasticity by early life stress might contribute to affective dysfunction in adulthood.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046004

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@inproceedings{Herpfer2012EarlyLS, title={Early Life Stress Differentially Modulates Distinct Forms of Brain Plasticity in Young and Adult Mice}, author={Inga Herpfer and Henning Hezel and Wilfried Reichardt and Kristin Clark and Julia Geiger and Claus Michael Gross and Andrea Heyer and Valentin Neagu and Harsharan S Bhatia and Hasan C. Atas and Bernd L. Fiebich and Josef Bischofberger and Carola A Haas and Klaus Lieb and Claus Normann}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2012} }