Maternal presence or absence alters nociceptive responding and cortical anandamide levels in juvenile female rats


O’Sullivan G, Humphrey RM, Thornton AM, Kerr DM, McGuire BE, Caes L & Roche M (2020) Maternal presence or absence alters nociceptive responding and cortical anandamide levels in juvenile female rats. Behavioural Brain Research, 392, Art. No.: 112712.

The influence of parental support on child pain experiences is well recognised. Accordingly, animal studies have revealed both short- and long-term effects of early life stress on nociceptive responding and neural substrates such as endocannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in mediating and modulating stress, social interaction, and nociception. This study examined the effects of maternal support or acute isolation on nociceptive responding of female rats to a range of stimuli during the juvenile pre-adolescent period and accompanying changes in the endocannabinoid system. The data revealed that juvenile female Sprague Dawley rats (PND21-24) isolated from the dam for 1 hr prior to nociceptive testing exhibited increased latency to withdraw in the hot plate test and increased mechanical withdrawal threshold in the Von Frey test, compared to rats tested in the presence of the dam. Furthermore, isolated rats exhibited reduced latency to respond in the acetone drop test and enhanced nociceptive responding in the formalin test when compared to dam-paired counterparts. Anandamide, but not 2-AG, levels were reduced in the prefrontal cortex of dam-paired, but not isolated, juvenile rats following nociceptive testing. There was no change in the expression of CB1, FAAH or MAGL; however, CB2 receptor expression was reduced in both dam-paired and isolated rats following nociceptive testing. Taken together the data demonstrate that brief social isolation or the presence of the dam modulates nociceptive responding of juvenile rat pups in a modality specific manner, and suggest a possible role for the endocannabinoid system in the prefrontal cortex in sociobehavioural pain responses during early life.

nociception; social isolation; maternal presence; juvenile; cannabinoid

Behavioural Brain Research: Volume 392

Publication date31/08/2020
Publication date online31/05/2020
Date accepted by journal16/05/2020
PublisherElsevier BV