Chapter 1.2 Early-life environmental manipulations in rodents and primates: Potential animal models in depression research

Christopher R. Pryce, Daniela Rüedi-Bettschen, Andrea C. Dettling, Joram Feldon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Depression is now one of the most common human illnesses and is of immense clinical and economic importance. Considerable preclinical research efforts have been made to establish animal models of depression, and more recently the human evidence derived from brain imaging studies has provided important insights into the functional neuroanatomical correlates of depression. Despite this, knowledge of the neurobiology of both depression and its pharmacological treatment is limited and so, consequently, is the efficacy of antidepressant pharmacology. In terms of etiology, whilst evidence for specific factors and mechanisms is sparse, it is well established from human epidemiological and clinical studies that genetic and environmental factors, and of course their interaction, are involved. With regard to the environment, acute stressors induce adaptive behavioral and physiological changes in adult mammals that resemble the symptoms of depression but are transient, whereas chronic stressors lead to chronic changes in these behavioral and physiological states, such that they constitute the symptoms, e.g. low mood, helplessness, anhedonia, hyposomnia, and associated abnormalities of depression, e.g. elevated catecholamine output, hypercortisolemia. The environment in which human infants and children develop is fundamental to how they develop, and it is clear that parental loss but also infant or child exposure to emotional or physical neglect or abuse, impact on development including increased vulnerability to depression and associated physiological abnormalities, across the life span. It would be important to establish the mechanisms mediating specific forms of abnormal offspring-parent relationship and development, including whether this early experience induces depressed traits per se and/or traits of increased vulnerability to depression that are triggered by events in later life. Studies of early-life environmental manipulations in rodents and primates can potentially yield evidence that abnormal developmental experience leading to dysfunction of the neurobiology, physiology and behavior of emotion is a general mammalian characteristic, and therefore that this approach can be used to develop animal models for depression research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTechniques in the Behavioral and Neural Sciences
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages28
EditionPART 2
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameTechniques in the Behavioral and Neural Sciences
NumberPART 2
ISSN (Print)0921-0709


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