Utilization of a rodent model to examine the neurological effects of early life adversity on adolescent pain sensitivity

Sabrina Salberg, Melanie Noel, Nikita N. Burke, Jillian Vinall, Richelle Mychasiuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


All children experience pain, and although many recover quickly, some go on to develop chronic pain. Adolescent chronic pain is a growing epidemic. It is unknown why some adolescents recover without incident and others experience persistent pain. Although unexplored, early life adversity may contribute to the development and maintenance of chronic pain. This study investigated the effects and underlying neurobiological mechanisms of an early life stressor on nociceptive (pain) sensitivity and emotional function in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats. Using maternal separation (MS) as an established model of early life stress, we addressed two aims: investigation of the effects of MS on behavior (anxiety and pain sensitivity), and investigation of the effects of MS on mRNA and pathophysiological changes associated with an acutely painful stimulus. Our results indicate that MS increased anxiety-like behavior and altered nociceptive responsivity in adolescent rats, with decreased mechanical withdrawal thresholds indicative of heightened and prolonged pain-related behavior. The MS groups also demonstrated increased expression of genes involved in regulating the stress and fight-or-flight response, mood, and neuroplasticity; as well as increased levels of inflammatory markers. We conclude that nociception, both at the behavioral and molecular level, is altered in response to the MS stressor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-399
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescence
  • amygdala
  • chronic pain
  • hippocampus
  • mRNA
  • prefrontal cortex
  • telomere length

Cite this