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      Chronic early life stress induced by limited bedding and nesting (LBN) material in rodents: critical considerations of methodology, outcomes and translational potential

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          Abstract

          <p class="first" id="P1">The immediate and long term effects of exposure to early life stress (ELS) have been documented in humans and animal models. Even relatively brief periods of stress during the first 10 days of life in rodents can impact later behavioral regulation and the vulnerability to develop adult pathologies, in particular an impairment of cognitive functions and neurogenesis, but also modified social, emotional and conditioned fear responses. The development of preclinical models of ELS exposure allows the examination of mechanisms and testing of therapeutic approaches that are not possible in humans. Here we describe limited bedding and nesting (LBN) procedures, with models that produce altered maternal behavior ranging from fragmentation of care to maltreatment of infants. The purpose of this paper is to discuss important issues related to the implementation of this chronic ELS procedure and to describe some of the most prominent endpoints and consequences, focusing on areas of convergence between laboratories. Effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, gut axis and metabolism are presented in addition to changes in cognitive and emotional functions. Interestingly, recent data have suggested a strong sex difference in some of the reported consequences of the LBN paradigm, with females being more resilient in general than males. As both the chronic and intermittent variants of the LBN procedure have profound consequences on the offspring with minimal external intervention from the investigator, this model is advantageous ecologically and has a large translational potential. In addition to the direct effect of ELS on neurodevelopmental outcomes, exposure to adverse early environments can also have intergenerational impacts on mental health and function in subsequent generation offspring. Thus, advancing our understanding of the effect of ELS on brain and behavioral development is of critical concern for the health and wellbeing of both the current population, and for generations to come. </p>

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          Most cited references 153

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          Early life stress alters behavior, immunity, and microbiota in rats: implications for irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric illnesses.

          Adverse early life events are associated with a maladaptive stress response system and might increase the vulnerability to disease in later life. Several disorders have been associated with early life stress, ranging from depression to irritable bowel syndrome. This makes the identification of the neurobiological substrates that are affected by adverse experiences in early life invaluable. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of early life stress on the brain-gut axis. Male rat pups were stressed by separating them from their mothers for 3 hours daily between postnatal days 2-12. The control group was left undisturbed with their mothers. Behavior, immune response, stress sensitivity, visceral sensation, and fecal microbiota were analyzed. The early life stress increased the number of fecal boli in response to a novel stress. Plasma corticosterone was increased in the maternally separated animals. An increase in the systemic immune response was noted in the stressed animals after an in vitro lipopolysaccharide challenge. Increased visceral sensation was seen in the stressed group. There was an alteration of the fecal microbiota when compared with the control group. These results show that this form of early life stress results in an altered brain-gut axis and is therefore an important model for investigating potential mechanistic insights into stress-related disorders including depression and IBS.
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            Lasting epigenetic influence of early-life adversity on the BDNF gene.

            Childhood maltreatment and early trauma leave lasting imprints on neural mechanisms of cognition and emotion. With a rat model of infant maltreatment by a caregiver, we investigated whether early-life adversity leaves lasting epigenetic marks at the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene in the central nervous system. During the first postnatal week, we exposed infant rats to stressed caretakers that predominately displayed abusive behaviors. We then assessed DNA methylation patterns and gene expression throughout the life span as well as DNA methylation patterns in the next generation of infants. Early maltreatment produced persisting changes in methylation of BDNF DNA that caused altered BDNF gene expression in the adult prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, we observed altered BDNF DNA methylation in offspring of females that had previously experienced the maltreatment regimen. These results highlight an epigenetic molecular mechanism potentially underlying lifelong and transgenerational perpetuation of changes in gene expression and behavior incited by early abuse and neglect.
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              Targeting abnormal neural circuits in mood and anxiety disorders: from the laboratory to the clinic.

              Recent decades have witnessed tremendous advances in the neuroscience of emotion, learning and memory, and in animal models for understanding depression and anxiety. This review focuses on new rationally designed psychiatric treatments derived from preclinical human and animal studies. Nonpharmacological treatments that affect disrupted emotion circuits include vagal nerve stimulation, rapid transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation, all borrowed from neurological interventions that attempt to target known pathological foci. Other approaches include drugs that are given in relation to specific learning events to enhance or disrupt endogenous emotional learning processes. Imaging data suggest that common regions of brain activation are targeted with pharmacological and somatic treatments as well as with the emotional learning in psychotherapy. Although many of these approaches are experimental, the rapidly developing understanding of emotional circuit regulation is likely to provide exciting and powerful future treatments for debilitating mood and anxiety disorders.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Stress
                Stress
                Informa UK Limited
                1025-3890
                1607-8888
                May 18 2017
                July 12 2017
                : 20
                : 5
                : 421-448
                Article
                10.1080/10253890.2017.1343296
                5705407
                28617197
                © 2017

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