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Infant-caregiver experiences alter telomere length in the brain.

Authors: Arun A. Asok, Kristin K. Bernard, Jeffrey B JB. Rosen, Mary M. Dozier, Tania L TL. Roth
Published: 07/01/2014, PloS one


Following adverse childhood experiences, high quality maternal care can protect against accelerated telomere shortening in peripheral cells. It is less clear, however, how telomere length in the brain is influenced by early caregiving experiences. Using rats, we investigated if quality of care (i.e., aversive or nurturing care outside of the homecage) during the first seven days of postnatal (PN) life affected telomere length in the adult brain (PN90) of male and female rats. At PN90, we found that nurturing care outside of the homecage was associated with longer telomeres in the medial prefrontal cortex relative to nurturing care inside the homecage (i.e., normal maternal care) and aversive care outside of the homecage. Further, pups exposed to aversive care outside of the homecage demonstrated longer telomeres in the amygdala relative to pups exposed to nurturing care inside the homecage. These effects were specific to females. No differences in telomere length between caregiving conditions were observed in the ventral hippocampus. Thus, positive and negative early-life experiences result in long-term, sex-specific changes of telomeres in the brain.

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