Altered neural connectivity in adult female rats exposed to early life social stress

UMMS Affiliation

Center for Comparative NeuroImaging, Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Mental and Social Health | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


The use of a variety of neuroanatomical techniques has led to a greater understanding of the adverse effects of stress on psychiatric health. One recent advance that has been particularly valuable is the development of resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) in clinical studies. The current study investigates changes in RSFC in F1 adult female rats exposed to the early life chronic social stress (ECSS) of the daily introduction of a novel male intruder to the cage of their F0 mothers while the F1 pups are in the cage. This ECSS for the F1 animals consists of depressed maternal care from their F0 mothers and exposure to conflict between their F0 mothers and intruder males. Analyses of the functional connectivity data in ECSS exposed adult females versus control females reveal broad changes in the limbic and reward systems, the salience and introspective socioaffective networks, and several additional stress and social behavior associated nuclei. Substantial changes in connectivity were found in the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, and somatosensory cortex. The current rodent RSFC data support the hypothesis that the exposure to early life social stress has long term effects on neural connectivity in numerous social behavior, stress, and depression relevant brain nuclei. Future conscious rodent RSFC studies can build on the wealth of data generated from previous neuroanatomical studies of early life stress and enhance translational connectivity between animal and human fMRI studies in the development of novel preventative measures and treatments.


Hippocampus, Nucleus accumbens, Prefrontal cortex, Resting state functional connectivity, Social stress, fMRI

DOI of Published Version



Behav Brain Res. 2017 Jan 1;316:225-233 Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Behavioural brain research

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID