The effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. helveticus) on developmental trajectories of emotional learning in stressed infant rats.

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Date
2016-05-31
Authors
Cowan, Caitlin S. M.
Callaghan, Bridget L.
Richardson, Rick
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Springer Nature
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Abstract
Recently, scientific interest in the brain-gut axis has grown dramatically, particularly with respect to the link between gastrointestinal and psychiatric dysfunction. However, the role of gut function in early emotional dysregulation is yet to be examined, despite the prevalence and treatment resistance of early-onset psychiatric disorders. The present studies utilized a developmental rodent model of early-life stress (ELS) to explore this gap. Rats were exposed to maternal separation (MS) on postnatal days 2-14. Throughout MS, dams received either vehicle or a probiotic formulation (previously shown to reduce gastrointestinal dysfunction) in their drinking water. Replicating past research, untreated MS infants exhibited an adult-like profile of long-lasting fear memories and fear relapse following extinction. In contrast, probiotic-exposed MS infants exhibited age-appropriate infantile amnesia and resistance to relapse. These effects were not mediated by changes in pups' or dams' anxiety at the time of training, nor by maternal responsiveness. Overall, probiotics acted as an effective and non-invasive treatment to restore normal developmental trajectories of emotion-related behaviors in infant rats exposed to ELS. These results provide promising initial evidence for this novel approach to reduce the risk of mental health problems in vulnerable individuals. Future studies are needed to test this treatment in humans exposed to ELS and to elucidate mechanisms for the observed behavioral changes.
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Keywords
Brain-gut axis , Gut function , Maternal separation , Probiotic agent
Citation
Cowan, C. S. M., Callaghan, B. L. and Richardson, R. (2016) 'The effects of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. helveticus) on developmental trajectories of emotional learning in stressed infant rats', Translational Psychiatry, 6, e823 (8 pp). doi: 10.1038/tp.2016.94