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Journal Article

Effect of neonatal handling on adult rat spatial learning and memory following acute stress

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Stamatakis, A., Pondiki, S., Kitraki, E., Diamantopoulou, A., Panagiotaropoulos, T., Raftogianni, A., et al. (2008). Effect of neonatal handling on adult rat spatial learning and memory following acute stress. Stress, 11(2), 148-159. doi:10.1080/10253890701653039.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-C8C7-5
Brief neonatal handling permanently alters hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function resulting in increased ability to cope with stress. Since stress is known to affect cognitive abilities, in the present study we investigated the effect of brief (15 min) handling on learning and memory in the Morris water maze, following exposure to an acute restraint stress either before training or recall. Exposure of non-handled rats to the acute stress prior to training resulted in quicker learning of the task, than in the absence of the stressor. When acute stress preceded acquisition, male handled rats showed an overall better learning performance, and both sexes of handled animals were less impaired in the subsequent memory trial, compared to the respective non-handled. In addition, the number of neurons immunoreactive for GR was higher in all areas of Ammon's horn of the handled rats during the recall. In contrast, the number of neurons immunoreactive for MR was higher in the CA1 and CA2 areas of the non-handled males. When the acute restraint stress was applied prior to the memory test, neonatal handling was not effective in preventing mnemonic impairment, as all animal groups showed a similar deficit in recall. In this case, no difference between handled and non-handled rats was observed in the number of GR positive neurons in the CA2 and CA3 hippocampal areas during the memory test. These results indicate that early experience interacts with sex and acute stress exposure in adulthood to affect performance in the water maze. Hippocampal corticosterone receptors may play a role in determining the final outcome.