Maternal Deprivation of Rat Pups Reduces Body Weight and Alters Behavior in Adulthood in a Gender-Specific Manner
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The early postnatal environment is critical for its capacity to influence adult behavior, and is associated with traits of altered physiological and neurobiological function and long-term predisposition to depression. Here we describe the delayed effects of maternal deprivation (MD) in male and female Wistar pups on their physical development and behavior in adulthood in tasks designed to explore depressive-like (forced swimming test, FST), and anxiety-like behaviors (elevated plus maze, EPM). We observed that MD led to reduced body weight in adulthood, anxiety-like traits in the EPM test and increased activity in the phases of the FST. Particularly, a consistent sexual dimorphism was observed in the responses to MD. A lower increase in body weight during maturation of MD rats was more pronounced in males than in females. MD anxiogenic effects were more pronounced in females, while in FST only MD males showed a marked increase in swimming activity followed by decreased immobility.