Neonatal Sevoflurane Exposure Induces Adulthood Fear-induced Learning Disability and Decreases Glutamatergic Neurons in the Basolateral Amygdala

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Abstract

Background:

Neonatal mice exposed to sevoflurane show certain cognitive and behavioral impairments in adulthood. However, the mechanisms underlying long-term cognitive deficits induced by sevoflurane exposure remain unknown. The present study was performed to investigate whether there is differential neuronal activation between naive mice and sevoflurane-exposed neonates in fear-conditioning tests based on immediate early gene (c-Fos) expression.

Methods:

Male mice were exposed to 3% sevoflurane (SEVO group) or carrier gas alone (no anesthesia, NA group) for 6 hours on postnatal day 6. The mice were allowed to mature before performing the contextual fear-conditioning test. A reduced freezing response was confirmed in the SEVO group. Neural activation in the regions of the medial prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala was investigated using c-Fos immunostaining 2 hours after the test. The types of neurons activated were also identified.

Results:

The number of c-Fos-positive cells decreased by 27% in the basolateral amygdala in the SEVO group, while no significant changes were observed in other regions. Furthermore, glutamatergic, but not γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic, neurons expressed c-Fos after the contextual fear-conditioning test in both groups. The number of glutamatergic neurons in the basolateral amygdala in the SEVO group was reduced by 27%.

Conclusions:

Decreased neural activation in the basolateral amygdala may be associated with reduced freezing time in neonatal sevoflurane-exposed mice. Fewer glutamatergic neurons responding to fear stimuli in the basolateral amygdala may contribute to decreased neural activation and learning deficits in mice exposed to sevoflurane as neonates.

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