Stress Induces Neurological Changes in Mice

March 10, 2008

Mice that are stressed as adults have neuroendocrine changes and an increased susceptibility to bowel inflammation that are made worse if they were also stressed early in life, according to a report published online Feb. 28 in Endocrinology.

MONDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- Mice that are stressed as adults have neuroendocrine changes and an increased susceptibility to bowel inflammation that are made worse if they were also stressed early in life, according to a report published online Feb. 28 in Endocrinology.

Alexa H. Veenema, Ph.D., from the University of Regensburg in Regensburg, Germany, and colleagues measured changes in neuroendocrine parameters and in the severity of a chemically induced colitis (as a model of inflammatory bowel disease) in male mice after exposure to early life stress (by maternal separation) and adult chronic psychosocial stress (by chronic subordinate colony housing).

The researchers found that mice stressed as adults, regardless of whether they were also stressed in early life, had a transient decrease in body weight gain, increased anxiety-related behavior and reduced expression of vasopressin mRNA in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus. However, only mice that were also stressed in early life had increased expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone mRNA in the paraventricular nucleus and lower plasma corticosterone. Induction of colitis led to more severe colonic inflammation in early life-stressed mice compared with unstressed mice by several measures.

"In conclusion, early life stress and subsequent exposure to chronic psychosocial stress in adulthood induced neuroendocrine abnormalities, which likely contributed to enhanced vulnerability to chemically induced colitis," Veenema and colleagues conclude. "These findings may further help to reveal mechanisms of hypocortisolemic disorders."

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