Mr. Mice Guy

Are you a social butterfly by nature…or nurture?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Early life adversity or ELA refers to negative experiences during childhood. Think: neglect and poverty. These experiences influence adult behavior, but HOW?

Kara Wendel and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine wondered! 

The scientists mimicked ELA in a group of newborn mouse pups by limiting their bedding for eight days. Poor little squeakers! After experiencing this mild distress, mice were given a fun reward – playtime with their mousey friends! During the playdate, their behavior was monitored and their brains were examined with MRI imaging.

Results? There was a BIG difference in the mice that experienced ELA compared to those who did not. The scans showed that this stress drastically changes the brain circuit that allows for reward-based pleasure. This showed up in their behavior – the stressed-out mice were less social than their peers.

This study shows how ELA can negatively impact the developing brain. 

Aw. Those comfy cocoons must be what allow butterflies to be so social!  

Reference: Wendel, K. M., Short, A. K., Noarbe, B. P., Haddad, E., Palma, A. M., Yassa, M. A., Baram, T. Z., & Obenaus, A. (2021). Early life adversity in male mice sculpts reward circuits. Neurobiology of Stress, 15, 100409.