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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #264809

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

item RAULT, JEAN-LOUP - Purdue University
item MACK, LAURIE - Purdue University
item CARTER, SUE - University Of Illinois
item GARNER, JOSEPH - Purdue University
item Marchant-Forde, Jeremy
item RICHERT, BRIAN - Purdue University
item Lay Jr, Donald

Submitted to: Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2011
Publication Date: 5/24/2011
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.

Interpretive Summary:

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.