The development of schizophrenia may include an early neurodevelopmental stress component which increases vulnerability to later stressful life events, in combination leading to overt disease. We investigated the effect of an early stress, in the form of maternal deprivation, combined with a later stress, simulated by chronic periadolescent corticosterone treatment, on behaviour in rats. Acute treatment with apomorphine caused disruption of prepulse inhibition (PPI) in controls and in rats that had undergone either maternal deprivation or corticosterone treatment, but was surprisingly absent in rats that had undergone the combined early and late stress. Amphetamine treatment significantly disrupted PPI in both non-deprived groups, but was absent in both maternally deprived groups. The serotonin-1A receptor agonist, 8-OH-DPAT, induced a significant disruption of PPI in all groups. Amphetamine-induced locomotor hyperactivity was similar in all groups. These results show an inhibitory interaction of early stress, caused by maternal deprivation, combined with 'adolescent' stress, simulated by corticosterone treatment, on dopaminergic regulation of PPI. The altered effects of apomorphine and amphetamine could indicate differential changes in dopamine receptor signalling leading to functional desensitisation, or altered modulation of sensory gating in the nucleus accumbens by limbic structures such as the hippocampus.
- Prepulse inhibition