The Effects of Neonatal Pain on Adulthood Pain Sensitivity: Modulation by Enriched Environments
Haverford College. Department of Psychology
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Environmental enrichment—enhanced via physical and social manipulations—has been shown to modulate various behavioral effects that are caused by early-life stress, but there has been no attempt to explore its capabilities to modulate the effects caused by early-life pain. The purpose of this particular study was to shed light on whether enriched environments can buffer the changes in long-term pain behavior after neonatal pain. On the day of birth, mice were assigned to one of three early-life conditions: neonatal surgery, sham surgery, or an unhandled control. After weaning, they were housed in either a standard or enriched environment during development. In adulthood, subjects were tested for thermal, mechanical, and chemical pain sensitivities, and corticosterone levels and neurogenesis were measured. Our results suggest that developing in an enriched environment can effectively modulate significant changes in adulthood pain behavior that result from early-life pain. Future research will focus on exploring what element of the pain pathway serves as the primary mechanism for this observed modulation.