Effects of a Neonatal Experience Involving Reward Through Maternal Contact on the Noradrenergic System of the Rat Prefrontal Cortex

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The noradrenergic system plays an important role in prefrontal cortex (PFC) function. Since early life experiences play a crucial role in programming brain function, we investigated the effects of a neonatal experience involving reward through maternal contact on the noradrenergic system of the rat PFC. Rat pups were exposed during Postnatal days (PNDs) 10–13, to a T-maze in which contact with the mother was used as a reward (RER). RER males had higher norepinephrine levels in the PFC both on PND 13 and in adulthood. The RER experience resulted in adulthood in increased levels of the active demethylase GADD45b, hypomethylation of the β1 adrenergic receptor (ADRB1) gene promoter, and consequent enhanced expression of its mRNA in the PFC. In addition, protein and binding levels of the ADRB1, as well as those of its downstream effector phosphorylated cAMP response element-binding protein were elevated in RER males. The higher activity of the PFC noradrenergic system of the RER males was reflected in their superior performance in the olfactory discrimination and the contextual fear extinction, 2 PFC noradrenergic system-dependent behavioral tasks.

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