Pre-pubertal stress increases post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) susceptibility. We have previously demonstrated that enriched environment (EE) intervention immediately after pre-pubertal stress protects from the effects of trauma in adulthood. Here, we examined whether exposure to EE would also be beneficial if applied after exposure to trauma in adulthood. We have recently shown that exposure to juvenile stress and under-water trauma (UWT) is associated with increased expression of GABAA receptor subunit α1 in the ventral hippocampus. However, differentiating between affected and unaffected individuals, this increased expression was confined to stress-exposed, behaviorally unaffected individuals, suggesting upregulation of α1 expression as a potential mechanism of resilience. We now examined whether EE-induced resilience renders increased expression of α1 in the ventral hippocampus redundant when facing a trauma later in life. Adult rats were exposed to UWT, with pre-exposure to juvenile stress, and tested in the open field and elevated plus maze paradigms four weeks later. EE exposure during juvenility prevented pre-pubertal stress-induced vulnerability, but not if performed following UWT in adulthood. Furthermore, juvenile EE exposure prevented the trauma-associated increase in α1 expression levels. Our findings emphasize the importance of early interventions in order to reduce the likelihood of developing psychopathologies in adulthood.
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© 2019, The Author(s).