Maternal Separation Increases Later Immobility During Forced Swim in Guinea Pig Pups: Evidence for Sensitization of a Depressive-Like State

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Early-life stress is thought to increase later vulnerability for developing depressive illness by sensitizing underlying stress-responsive systems. Guinea pig pups separated from their mother and isolated in a novel cage for 3 hr exhibit a sensitized depressive-like behavioral response when separated again the following day as well as weeks later. The behavioral response and its sensitization appear to be mediated by inflammatory factors. To determine if this sensitization is specific to the separation response or if it reflects a broader underlying depressive-like state, guinea pig pups that had either been separated for 3 hr or remained with their mothers were observed in the forced swim test the following 3 days. Earlier separation was found to increase the duration of immobility, a measure sensitive to antidepressant treatment. These results support the use of the guinea pig as a model for examining mechanisms of inflammatory-mediated sensitization of depression following stress in early life.