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      Prolonged Social Isolation, Started Early in Life, Impairs Cognitive Abilities in Rats Depending on Sex

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          Abstract

          Background: The chronic stress of social isolation is a valid predictor of cognitive pathology. This study aimed to compare the effects of long-term social isolation on female versus male Wistar rats’ learning and memory. We hypothesized that prolonged social isolation stress, which starts early in life, would affect learning in a sex-dependent manner. Methods: Social isolation started at the edge of early to mid-adolescence and lasted 9 months. The rat’s cognitive abilities were assessed by habituation and reactivity to novelty in the open field (OF) test, spatial memory in the Morris water maze (MWM), and the conditioned passive avoidance (PA) reflex. Basal serum corticosterone levels were assessed using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Regardless of the housing conditions, females habituated to the OF under low illumination slower than males. Under bright light, the single-housed rats showed hyporeactivity to novelty. In the MWM, all the rats learned to locate the platform; however, on the first training day, the single-housed females’ speed was lower relative to other groups. Four months later, in the post-reminder probe trial, the single-housed rats reached the area around the platform site later, and only males, regardless of housing conditions, preferred the target quadrant. Single-housed rats, irrespective of sex, showed a PA deficit. There was a more pronounced conditioned fear in the single-housed males than in females. In both male and female rats, basal corticosterone levels in rat blood serum after 9 months of social isolation did not differ from that in the group-housed rats of the corresponding sex. Meanwhile, females’ basal corticosterone level was higher than in males, regardless of the housing conditions. The relative weight of the adrenal glands was increased only in single-housed females. Conclusions: Under long-term social isolation, started early in life, single-housed females compared with males showed more pronounced cognitive impairments in the MWM and PA paradigm, findings that specify their greater vulnerability to the stress of prolonged social isolation.

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          Most cited references 106

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          Controlling the False Discovery Rate: A Practical and Powerful Approach to Multiple Testing

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            Adult-Generated Hippocampal Neurons Allow the Flexible Use of Spatially Precise Learning Strategies

            Despite enormous progress in the past few years the specific contribution of newly born granule cells to the function of the adult hippocampus is still not clear. We hypothesized that in order to solve this question particular attention has to be paid to the specific design, the analysis, and the interpretation of the learning test to be used. We thus designed a behavioral experiment along hypotheses derived from a computational model predicting that new neurons might be particularly relevant for learning conditions, in which novel aspects arise in familiar situations, thus putting high demands on the qualitative aspects of (re-)learning. In the reference memory version of the water maze task suppression of adult neurogenesis with temozolomide (TMZ) caused a highly specific learning deficit. Mice were tested in the hidden platform version of the Morris water maze (6 trials per day for 5 days with a reversal of the platform location on day 4). Testing was done at 4 weeks after the end of four cycles of treatment to minimize the number of potentially recruitable new neurons at the time of testing. The reduction of neurogenesis did not alter longterm potentiation in CA3 and the dentate gyrus but abolished the part of dentate gyrus LTP that is attributed to the new neurons. TMZ did not have any overt side effects at the time of testing, and both treated mice and controls learned to find the hidden platform. Qualitative analysis of search strategies, however, revealed that treated mice did not advance to spatially precise search strategies, in particular when learning a changed goal position (reversal). New neurons in the dentate gyrus thus seem to be necessary for adding flexibility to some hippocampus-dependent qualitative parameters of learning. Our finding that a lack of adult-generated granule cells specifically results in the animal's inability to precisely locate a hidden goal is also in accordance with a specialized role of the dentate gyrus in generating a metric rather than just a configurational map of the environment. The discovery of highly specific behavioral deficits as consequence of a suppression of adult hippocampal neurogenesis thus allows to link cellular hippocampal plasticity to well-defined hypotheses from theoretical models.
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              Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition.

              Chronic exposure to stress hormones, whether it occurs during the prenatal period, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood or aging, has an impact on brain structures involved in cognition and mental health. However, the specific effects on the brain, behaviour and cognition emerge as a function of the timing and the duration of the exposure, and some also depend on the interaction between gene effects and previous exposure to environmental adversity. Advances in animal and human studies have made it possible to synthesize these findings, and in this Review a model is developed to explain why different disorders emerge in individuals exposed to stress at different times in their lives.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                brainsci
                Brain Sciences
                MDPI
                2076-3425
                30 October 2020
                November 2020
                : 10
                : 11
                Affiliations
                Laboratory of General Pathology of the Nervous System, The Institute of General Pathology and Pathophysiology, 125315 Moscow, Russia; shirenova.jr@ 123456gmail.com (S.D.S.); nanikh@ 123456yandex.ru (N.N.K.)
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: krupina-na@ 123456yandex.ru
                Article
                brainsci-10-00799
                10.3390/brainsci10110799
                7692092
                33143056
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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