Indexed on: 07 Jun '13Published on: 07 Jun '13Published in: Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas / Sociedade Brasileira de Biofisica ... [et al.]
Neonatal handling induces several behavioral and neurochemical alterations in pups, including decreased responses to stress and reduced fear in new environments. However, there are few reports in the literature concerning the behavioral effects of this neonatal intervention on the dams during the postpartum period. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to determine if brief postpartum separation from pups has a persistent impact on the dam's stress response and behavior. Litters were divided into two neonatal groups: 1) non-handled and 2) handled [10 min/day, from postnatal day (PND) 1 to 10]. Weaning occurred at PND 21 when behavioral tasks started to be applied to the dams, including sweet food ingestion (PND 21), forced swimming test (PND 28), and locomotor response to a psychostimulant (PND 28). On postpartum day 40, plasma was collected at baseline for leptin assays and after 1 h of restraint for corticosterone assay. Regarding sweet food consumption, behavior during the forced swimming test or plasma leptin levels did not differ between dams briefly separated and non-separated from their pups during the postpartum period. On the other hand, both increased locomotion in response to diethylpropion and increased corticosterone secretion in response to acute stress were detected in dams briefly separated from their pups during the first 10 postnatal days. Taken together, these findings suggest that brief, repeated separations from the pups during the neonatal period persistently impact the behavior and induce signs of dopaminergic sensitization in the dam.