Sex-dependent effects of early unstable post-natal environment on response to positive and negative stimuli in adult mice

Matteo Di Segni, Diego Andolina, Sebastian Luca D'Addario, Lucy Babicola, Donald Ielpo, Alessandra Luchetti, Tiziana Pascucci, Luisa Lo Iacono, Francesca R. D'Amato, Rossella Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alterations in early environmental conditions that interfere with the creation of a stable mother-pup bond have been suggested to be a risk factor for the development of stress-related psychopathologies later in life. The long-lasting effects of early experiences are mediated by changes in various cerebral circuits, such as the corticolimbic system, which processes aversive and rewarding stimuli. However, it is evident that the early environment is not sufficient per se to induce psychiatric disorders; interindividual (eg, sex-based) differences in the response to environmental challenges exist. To examine the sex-related effects that are induced by an early experience on later events in adulthood, we determine the enduring effects of repeated cross-fostering (RCF) in female and male C57BL/6J mice. To this end, we assessed the behavioral phenotype of RCF and control (male and female) mice in the saccharine preference test and cocaine-induced conditioned place preference to evaluate the response to natural and pharmacological stimuli and in the elevated plus maze test and forced swimming test to measure their anxiety- and depression-like behavior. We also evaluated FST-induced c-Fos immunoreactivity in various brain regions that are engaged in the response to acute stress exposure (FST). Notably, RCF has opposing effects on the adult response to these tests between sexes, directing male mice toward an “anhedonia-like” phenotype and increasing the sensitivity for rewarding stimuli in female mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 10 2019


  • anhedonia-like phenotype
  • mouse
  • sex-related differences
  • unstable early environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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