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The influence of early maternal care on perceptual attentional set shifting and stress reactivity in adult rats.

Authors
  • Sakhai, Samuel A1
  • Saxton, Katherine2
  • Francis, Darlene D3, 4
  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall MC 1650, Berkeley, CA, 94720. [email protected]
  • 2 Department of Biology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA.
  • 3 Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall MC 1650, Berkeley, CA, 94720.
  • 4 School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall MC 1650, Berkeley, CA, 94720.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Developmental Psychobiology
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
January 2016
Volume
58
Issue
1
Pages
39–51
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/dev.21343
PMID: 26289990
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Stress influences a wide variety of outcomes including cognitive processing. In the rat, early life maternal care can influence developing offspring to affect both stress reactivity and cognitive processes in adulthood. The current study assessed if variations in early life maternal care can influence cognitive performance on a task, the ability to switch cognitive sets, dependent on the medial prefrontal cortex. Early in life, offspring was reared under High or Low maternal Licking conditions. As adults, they were trained daily and then tested on an attentional set-shifting task (ASST), which targets cognitive flexibility in rodents. Stress-sensitive behavioral and neural markers were assayed before and after the ASST. High and Low Licking offspring performed equally well on the ASST despite initial, but not later, differences in stress axis functioning. These results suggest that early life maternal care does not impact the accuracy of attentional set-shifting in rats. These findings may be of particular importance for those interested in the relationship between early life experience and adult cognitive function.

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