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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SAFEGUARDING WELL-BEING OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: Prenatally stressed piglets 'shut down' in response to separation, oxytocin modulates some effects

Authors
item Rault, Jean-Loup -
item Mack, Laurie -
item Carter, Sue -
item Garner, Joseph -
item Marchant-Forde, Jeremy
item Richert, Brian -
item Lay, Jr, Donald

Submitted to: Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 2011
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Citation: Rault, J., Mack, L., Carter, S., Garner, J., Marchant Forde, J.N., Richert, B., Lay Jr, D.C. 2011. Prenatally stressed piglets 'shut down' in response to separation, oxytocin modulates some effects. Behavioral Neuroscience. Proceedings.

Technical Abstract: Prenatal stress (PNS) effects may enhance offspring’s survival traits. Yet, PNS could be maladaptive for captive animals, causing anxiety and abnormal social development. Oxytocin (OT) reduces anxiety while OT deficiency results in social behavior alteration. We hypothesized that PNS piglets would be more responsive to social separation, but that OT could reduce it. Socially stressed gestating sows were mixed weekly for 3 wks. Female offspring were tested using litters from 3 socially stressed (PNS) and 3 control (C) sows. In each litter, 2 piglets received 24 IU of OT intranasally and 2 piglets received saline. After 45 min, each piglet was placed in an isolation box for 15 min. Behavior, vocalizations and heart rate were recorded. All PNS piglets had reduced locomotor speed, walked less, spent more time inactive, with fewer escape attempts, but more time defecating. PNS piglets also showed less alert behavior while OT reversed this effect. Oxytocin had opposite effects on C and PNS piglets, increasing and decreasing respectively standing and defecation frequency. Overall, PNS piglets displayed a more passive coping strategy, and OT modulated some PNS effects. We speculate that, consistent with the Polyvagal Theory, PNS causes deficits in the brainstem, unmyelinated vagal systems, normally regulated by protective effects of OT.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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