Altered monoamine system activities after prenatal and adult stress: A role for stress resilience?

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Introduction: Prenatal stress (PNS) and stress in adulthood are risk factors for development of major depressive disorder. The present study aimed to 1) confirm previous neuroendocrine and behavioral changes induced by PNS, and 2) to characterize the effect of early- and late life stress on the in vivo activity of monoamine systems.

Methods: Gestational dams were restrained thrice daily under bright illumination from gestational day (GD)11-20. Behavior and neuroendocrine responses to the forced swim test (FST) were determined in adult (50-80 days) offspring, and electrophysiological single unit recordings of dorsal raphe nucleus serotonin (5-HT), ventral tegmental area dopamine (DA) and locus coeruleus norepinephrine (NE) neurons were obtained at baseline and 24h after the FST.

Results: Gestational dams did not habituate to chronic restraint stress, and PNS reduced the birth weight of offspring. In adulthood, swim stress elevated CORT levels longer in PNS animals, while it had no effect on swim behaviors. Baseline firing activity of 5-HT neurons was decreased in PNS animals, while the firing activity of NE and DA neurons was increased. Swim stress had no effect on the firing on 5-HT neurons, but normalized the firing activity of catecholamine neurons in PNS animals.

Conclusion: The present data confirm previously established effects on neuroendocrine and physiological measures, and demonstrate an altering effect of PNS and stress on monoamine system activities in adulthood. Since PNS did not result in a depressive-like phenotype, these central changes following PNS might play reflect adaptive changes contributing to stress resilience in adulthood.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Brain Research