Evidence shows that maternal care and postnatal traumatic events can exert powerful effects on brain circuitry development but little is known about the impact of early postnatal experiences on processing of rewarding and aversive stimuli related to the medial prefrontal cortex (mpFC) function in adult life. In this study, the unstable maternal environment induced by repeated cross-fostering (RCF) impaired palatable food conditioned place preference and disrupted the natural preference for sweetened fluids in the saccharin preference test. By contrast, RCF increased sensitivity to conditioned place aversion (CPA) and enhanced immobility in the forced swimming test. Intracerebral microdialysis data showed that the RCF prevents mpFC dopamine (DA) outflow regardless of exposure to rewarding or aversive stimuli, whereas it induces a strong and sustained prefrontal norepinephrine (NE) release in response to different aversive experiences. Moreover, the selective mpFC NE depletion abolished CPA, thus indicating that prefrontal NE is required for motivational salience attribution to aversion-related stimuli. These findings demonstrate that an unstable maternal environment impairs the natural propensity to seek pleasurable sources of reward, enhances sensitivity to negative events in adult life, blunts prefrontal DA outflow, and modulates NE release in the reverse manner depending on the exposure to rewarding or aversive stimuli.
- prefrontal cortex
- salience attribution
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience