Sex-dependent effects of prenatal stress on social memory in rats

Natalia J Grundwald, Paula Brunton

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

Abstract / Description of output

Prenatal stress (PNS) affects a number of traits in the offspring including neuroendocrine stress axis regulation, cognition and emotionality. Here we investigated the effect of PNS on social recognition in the adult offspring of dams exposed to social stress during pregnancy.
We first tested social preference using a modified 3 chamber sociability test: containing either a same sex conspecific, an object or a neutral chamber. Next using a social discrimination task, we assessed social memory with and without prior acute stress exposure (30 min restraint). Rats were initially exposed to 1, and after a lag time, 2 juveniles (1 known and 1 novel). Memory was assessed by comparing investigation times. Finally we assessed olfaction in female rats for social and non-social odours using wooden beads. Oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin play key roles in regulating social memory, thus central OT and vasopressin-1a (V1a) receptor mRNA expression was quantified using in situ hybridization.
PNS has no effect on sociability in rats, however it impaired social memory under basal conditions in PNS females, but not PNS males. In accordance, V1a mRNA expression in the rostral part of the lateral septum and the bed nucleus of stria terminalis was significantly lower in PNS females, compared with controls. Acute stress impaired social memory in both sexes in control rats, however PNS males were affected. Moreover, in PNS females social memory was significantly enhanced by prior stress exposure. Social memory deficits in PNS females persisted when social odours were used, however these social memory deficits do not appear to be linked to impaired olfaction as memory for non-social odours was similar in control and PNS females.
PNS has a negative effect on social memory in females under basal conditions. However our data support the environmental mismatch hypothesis of prenatal programming, as the PNS females perform markedly better after acute stress than controls.
Support: BBSRC and BSN
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventJoint meeting of the French and the British Neuroendocrine Societites - Lille, France
Duration: 23 Sept 201525 Sept 2015


ConferenceJoint meeting of the French and the British Neuroendocrine Societites


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex-dependent effects of prenatal stress on social memory in rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this