Behavioral changes after maternal separation are reversed by chronic constant light treatment

J. J. Dimatelis, D. J. Stein, V. A. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Rats subjected to maternal separation display behavioral alterations (e.g. increased immobility in the forced swim test) and molecular changes (e.g. in growth factors and related signal transduction proteins). Light treatment has previously been shown to have antidepressant effects in rat models of depression, but has not been studied in a rodent model of maternal separation. Methods: This study focused on maternally separated rat pups. The aim of this study was to compare the effects of chronic constant light exposure during adolescence with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), escitalopram. Behavioral changes (exploratory activity in the open field and elevated plus maze, 22 kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, immobility in the forced swim test) and molecular changes (brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) in the ventral hippocampus, and mu-opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens) were measured. Results: Animals that had been subjected to maternal separation displayed an increased number and duration of 22 kHz vocalizations, increased immobility in the forced swim test, increased hippocampal BDNF, and decreased mu-opioid receptor levels in the nucleus accumbens in adulthood compared to controls. MKP-1 levels in the ventral hippocampus were not affected. After chronic light treatment, there was normalization of ultrasonic vocalizations, immobility on the forced swim test, and mu-opioid receptor levels in the nucleus accumbens. Chronic saline treatment reduced anxiety-like behavior and immobility in the forced swim test. Escitalopram did not have any significant effect in this rat model of depression. Conclusion: Chronic constant light treatment reversed a number of the behavioral and molecular effects of maternal separation. Light-induced up-regulation of mu-opioid receptors in the nucleus accumbens may play a key role in mediating such effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Research
Volume1480
DOIs
StatePublished - 22 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chronic constant light
  • Depression
  • Maternal separation
  • Mu-opioid receptor

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