Repeated Isolation Stress in the Neonatal Rat: Relation to Brain Dopamine Systems in the 10-Day-Old Rat

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Isolation of the rat pup from the nest and dam for one hour per day from PN 2–9 is a useful paradigm for producing stress in the neonate. These previously isolated rats respond to an amphetamine challenge with alterations in activity at the juvenile stage or as adults. Furthermore, when dopamine release is measured in the nucleus accumbens, juveniles release 3 times more dopamine after amphetamine than do controls. This study describes changes in behavior and brain dopamine systems at PN 10. Experiment 1 determined an appropriate amphetamine dose that could be used for behavioral activation at PN 10. Experiment 2 produced significant evidence of enhanced behavioral activation after the isolation paradigm and indicated that brain regions innervated by the mesolimbic dopamine system, septum, and hypothalamus display increased dopamine turnover and that the nigrostriatal pathway is less active. Likewise, in Experiment 3, in vivo microdialysis of the nucleus accumbens indicated that previously isolated pups respond to an amphetamine challenge with a several-fold increase in dopamine release over a 4-hour session.

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