Persistent Sensitization of Depressive-Like Behavior and Thermogenic Response During Maternal Separation in Pre- and Post-Weaning Guinea Pigs

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Early attachment disruption is thought to promote later onset of depressive illness through a process involving sensitization. Maternal separation in guinea pig pups produces depressive-like behavior and core body temperature fluctuations that appear to be mediated by proinflammatory activity. In pups near the age of weaning (∼20 days of age), these responses are increased during repeated separations occurring over several days. Here, enhanced depressive-like behavior and core body temperature responses were observed during repeated separations in guinea pigs from ∼10 to 30 days of age. The sensitization lasted for more than a week, with the greatest temperature response occurring during the final separation. These results demonstrate persisting sensitization of behavioral and thermogenic responses to maternal separation over the age range in which these responses are known to occur. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that proinflammatory activity contributes to the sensitization response and provide further suggestion that the impact of early attachment disruption on susceptibility to depression may involve proinflammatory processes.