Antenatal maternal stress alters functional brain responses in adult offspring during conditioned fear.

TitleAntenatal maternal stress alters functional brain responses in adult offspring during conditioned fear.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSadler, TR, Nguyen PT, Yang J, Givrad TK, Mayer EA, Maarek J-MI, Hinton DR, Holschneider DP
JournalBrain research
Date Published2011 Apr 18
KeywordsAcoustic Stimulation, Age Factors, Animals, Brain, Conditioning (Psychology), Fear, Female, Male, Pregnancy, Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Stress, Psychological

Antenatal maternal stress has been shown in rodent models and in humans to result in altered behavioral and neuroendocrine responses, yet little is known about its effects on functional brain activation. Pregnant female rats received a daily foot-shock stress or sham-stress two days after testing plug-positive and continuing for the duration of their pregnancy. Adult male offspring (age 14 weeks) with and without prior maternal stress (MS) were exposed to an auditory fear conditioning (CF) paradigm. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) was assessed during recall of the tone cue in the nonsedated, nontethered animal using the ((14))C-iodoantipyrine method, in which the tracer was administered intravenously by remote activation of an implantable minipump. Regional CBF distribution was examined by autoradiography and analyzed by statistical parametric mapping in the three-dimensionally reconstructed brains. Presence of fear memory was confirmed by behavioral immobility ("freezing"). Corticosterone plasma levels during the CF paradigm were measured by ELISA in a separate group of rats. Antenatal MS exposure altered functional brain responses to the fear conditioned cue in adult offspring. Rats with prior MS exposure compared to those without demonstrated heightened fear responsivity, exaggerated and prolonged corticosterone release, increased functional cerebral activation of limbic/paralimbic regions (amygdala, ventral hippocampus, insula, ventral striatum, and nucleus accumbens), the locus coeruleus, and white matter, and deactivation of medial prefrontal cortical regions. Dysregulation of corticolimbic circuits may represent risk factors in the future development of anxiety disorders and associated alterations in emotional regulation.

Alternate JournalBrain Res.