Rearing conditions differently affect the motor performance and cerebellar morphology of prenatally stressed juvenile rats

Behav Brain Res. 2015 Feb 1;278:235-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.10.003. Epub 2014 Oct 12.


The cerebellum is one of the most vulnerable parts of the brain to environmental changes. In this study, the effect of diverse environmental rearing conditions on the motor performances of prenatally stressed juvenile rats and its reflection to the cerebellar morphology were investigated. Prenatally stressed Wistar rats were grouped according to different rearing conditions (Enriched=EC, Standard=SC and Isolated=IC) after weaning. Six weeks later, male and female offspring from different litters were tested behaviorally. In rotarod and string suspension tests, females gained better scores than males. Significant gender and housing effects were observed especially on the motor functions requiring fine skills with the best performance by enriched females, but the worst by enriched males. The susceptibility of cerebellar macro- and micro-neurons to environmental conditions was compared using stereological methods. In female groups, no differences were observed in the volume proportions of cerebellar layers, soma sizes and the numerical densities of granule or Purkinje cells. However, a significant interaction between housing and gender was observed in the granule to Purkinje cell ratio of males, due to the increased numerical densities of the granule cells in enriched males. These data imply that proper functioning of the cerebellum relies on its well organized and evolutionarily conserved structure and circuitry. Although early life stress leads to long term behavioral and neurobiological consequences in the offspring, diverse rearing conditions can alter the motor skills of animals and synaptic connectivity between Purkinje and granular cells in a gender dependent manner.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Enrichment; Motor behavior; Prenatal stress; Social isolation; Stereology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / pathology*
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / pathology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology*
  • Purkinje Cells / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Time Factors