Early life adversity (ELA) increases the risk of developing neuropsychiatric illnesses such as anxiety disorders. However, the mechanisms connecting these negative early life experiences to illness later in life remain unclear. In rodents, plasticity mechanisms, specifically adult neurogenesis in the ventral hippocampus, have been shown to be altered by ELA and important for buffering against detrimental stress-induced outcomes. The current study sought to explore whether adult neurogenesis contributes to ELA-induced changes in avoidance behavior. Using the GFAP-TK transgenic model, which allows for the inhibition of adult neurogenesis, and CD1 littermate controls, we subjected mice to an ELA paradigm of maternal separation and early weaning (MSEW) or control rearing. We found that mice with intact adult neurogenesis showed no behavioral changes in response to MSEW. After reducing adult neurogenesis, however, male mice previously subjected to MSEW had an unexpected decrease in avoidance behavior. This finding was not observed in female mice, suggesting that a sex difference exists in the role of adult-born neurons in buffering against ELA-induced changes in behavior. Taken together with the existing literature on ELA and avoidance behavior, this work suggests that strain differences exist in susceptibility to ELA and that adult-born neurons may play a role in regulating adaptive behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Adult neurogenesis
- Dentate gyrus
- Early life adversity