An Investigation of the Effects of Maternal Separation and Novelty on Central Mechanisms Mediating Pituitary-Adrenal Activity in Infant Guinea Pigs (Cavia porcellus)

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In mammalian species in which the young exhibit a strong filial attachment (e.g., monkeys, guinea pigs), numerous studies have shown that even brief separation from the attachment figure potently elevates circulating concentrations of glucocorticoids and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). However, effects of separation on central regulation of this stress response are not known. Therefore, we investigated central mechanisms mediating pituitary-adrenal activation during maternal separation and novelty exposure in guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) pups. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA expression in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), and plasma cortisol and ACTH levels, were elevated only during separation in a novel environment. C-Fos activity was elevated in the medial amygdala (MeA) and reduced in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) during novelty exposure, regardless of separation. On the other hand, c-Fos activity was elevated in the PVN during separation, regardless of novelty exposure. These results demonstrate independent and combined effects of separation and novelty in regions of the guinea pig CNS that regulate pituitary-adrenal activity. Moreover, they suggest that a pathway from MeA to BNST to PVN mediates responses to novelty in the guinea pig pup, as in the adult rat, though inputs from other cell populations appear required to fully account for the HPA activity observed here.



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