The current study used stereological techniques in combination with Golg-Cox methods to examine the neuroanatomical alterations in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of developing offspring exposed to gestational stress. Morphological changes in dendritic branching, length, and spine density, were examined at weaning along with changes in actual numbers of neurons. Using this information we generated a gross estimation of synaptic connectivity. The results showed region-specific and sex-dependent alterations to neuroanatomy in response to prenatal stress. The two regions of the prefrontal cortex, medial prefrontal, and orbital prefrontal cortices, exhibited sexually dimorphic, opposite changes, in synaptic connectivity in response to the same experience. Both male and female offspring demonstrated a loss of neuron number and estimated synapse number in the hippocampus despite exhibiting increased spine density. The results from this study suggest that prenatal stress alters normal development and the organization of neuronal circuits in both neocortex and hippocampus early in development and thus likely influences the course of later experience-dependent synaptic changes.
- Cerebral organization