Prenatal stress alters the negative correlation between neuronal activation in limbic regions and behavioral responses in rats exposed to high and low anxiogenic environments

Jérôme Mairesse, Odile Viltart, Nicolas Salomé, Alessandro Giuliani, Assia Catalani, Paola Casolini, Sara Morley-Fletcher, Ferdinando Nicoletti, Stefania Maccari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Behavioral adaptation to an anxiogenic environment involves the activity of various interconnected limbic regions, such as the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Prenatal stress (PS) in rats affects the ability to cope with environmental challenges and alters brain plasticity, leading to long-lasting behavioral and neurobiological alterations. We examined in PS and control animals whether behavioral reactivity was correlated to neuronal activation by assessing Fos protein expression in limbic regions of rats exposed to a low or high anxiogenic environment (the closed and open arms of an elevated plus maze, respectively). A negative correlation was found between behavioral and neuronal activation, with a lower behavioral reactivity and a higher neuronal response observed in rats exposed to the more anxiogenic environment (the open arm) with respect to the less anxiogenic environment (the closed arm). Interestingly, the variation in the neurobehavioral response between the two arms of the maze was less pronounced in rats that had been subjected to PS. This study provides a remarkable example of how long-lasting changes in brain plasticity induced by PS affect the ability of limbic neurons to cope with anxiogenic stimuli of different strength.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-776
Number of pages12
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007



  • Anxiety
  • Fos protein
  • Gestational stress
  • Limbic structures
  • Locomotor activity
  • Principal component analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychology(all)

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