The purpose of this study was to examine the anatomical and behavioural sequelae in the normal brain associated with tactile stimulation treatment during development. Using a split litter design, male and female rats were randomly assigned to either the tactile stimulation group (tactile stimulation for 15. min, three times/day, from postnatal day 3 to 21), or the no-tactile stimulation group. In adulthood, the rats were tested on the Whishaw tray reaching task, activity box, novel object recognition, and elevated plus maze. Following behavioural testing, rats were sacrificed for Golgi-Cox analysis. Dendritic length, dendritic branching, and spine density were analyzed in two areas of the prefrontal cortex (mPFC and OFC) and spine density in the amygdala. Tactile stimulation significantly altered rat behaviour on the novel object recognition task and Whishaw tray reaching task, but failed to have an effect on behaviour in the elevated plus maze or activity box. Importantly, tactile stimulation dramatically altered dendritic morphology in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala of both male and female rats. Tactile stimulation significantly increased dendritic branching, dendritic length, and spine density in all brain regions examined. These findings demonstrate that similar to early adversity, positive experiences early in development can dramatically alter neuroplasticity.
- Long-Evans rat