Prenatal Stress Modifies Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity and Spatial Learning in Young Rat Offspring

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Abstract

Clinical studies demonstrate that prenatal stress causes cognitive deficits and increases vulnerability to affective disorders in children and adolescents. The underlying mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Here, we reported that prenatal stress (10 unpredictable, 1 s, 0.8 mA foot shocks per day during gestational days 13-19) impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) but facilitated long-term depression (LTD) in hippocampal CA1 region in slices of the prenatal stressed offspring (5 weeks old). Cross-fostering neonate offspring by the prenatal stressed or control mothers did not change the effects of prenatal stress on the hippocampal LTP and LTD. Furthermore, prenatal stress enhanced the effects of acute stress on the hippocampal LTP and LTD and impaired spatial learning and memory in the Morris water maze in the young rat offspring. Therefore, prenatal stress alters synaptic plasticity and enhances the effects of acute stress on synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, which may be the mechanism for the impaired spatial learning and memory in young rat offspring.

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