NYMC Faculty Publications


Pairing of Neonatal Phencyclidine Exposure and Acute Adolescent Stress in Male Rats as a Novel Developmental Model of Schizophrenia

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Cell Biology and Anatomy


Improved understanding of the neurophysiological and neurochemical mechanisms underlying schizophrenia is essential for the identification of biological markers and developing new therapeutic targets. The development of behaviorally faithful, predictive animal models is crucial to this endeavor. We have developed a novel two-hit paradigm designed to recapitulate in rodents the developmental process leading to appearance of human schizophrenia symptomatology. The model pairs neonatal administration of the NMDA receptor (NMDAR) open-channel blocker phencyclidine (PCP 10 mg/kg) to male rats at 7, 9 and 11 days of age, with later adolescent exposure (34 days of age) to a single prolonged stress paradigm consisting of 2 h restraint, followed by 20 min of forced swimming. Four experimental groups were examined: vehicle and no stress (VEH-NS), vehicle plus stress (VEH-S), PCP and no stress (PCP-NS), and PCP plus stress (PCP-S). Only pairing of neonatal PCP with single prolonged adolescent stress caused deficits in novel object recognition memory and increased anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze task, without altering locomotor activity. In a separate cohort of animals, the PCP-S group showed significant reduction in magnitude of hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses following a single pair of theta-burst stimuli (TBS), while LTP was diminished in both PCP treated groups when elicited by a second pair of TBS. These results suggest that the combination of neonatal PCP and acute adolescent stress are necessary for lasting cognitive impairment and anxiety-like phenotype, and that these behavioral impairments may be due to deficits in LTP in hippocampus, and perhaps elsewhere in the brain.